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v7<i. 



SANSON'S MEMOIRS, 



VOL II. 



l.OKDON : PRINTED BY 

SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NKW-STKEET SQIJAKE 

AND PARLIAMENT STREET 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS 

[i688-(i847.n 

EDITED BY 

HENRY SANSON, 

LAIE EXECUTIONER OF THE COURT OF JUSTICE OF I'ARIS. 

AV TWO VOLUMES,— VOL. IL 




CHATTO AND WINDUS, PICCADILLY. 



/553 




CONTENTS 

OF 

THE SECOND VOLUME. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XXVII, An Expiatory Mass i 

XXVIII. The La Rouerie Conspiracy 29 

XXIX. Charlotte Corday 34 

XXX. CusTiNE 42 

XXXI. The Queen 49 

XXXII. The Gtrondins 58 

XXXIII. Adam Lux. — The Duke of Orleans . , .71 

XXXIV. Madame Roland and Bailly 77 

XXXV. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary .... 90 

XXXVI. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary {continued) . . 112 

XXXVII. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary {continued) . 125 

XXXVIIL Trial of Danton, Camille Desmoulins, West- 

ermann, etc., etc 130 

XXXIX. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary {continued) . 135 

XL. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary {continued) . . 145 



vi CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XLI. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary {continued) . .158 

XLII. Charles Henri Sanson's Diary {contitiued) . . id'j 

XLIH. My Father goes into the Artillery.— His MS. 182 

XLIV. Arrest of my Father and Great-Uncle after 

the <^th OF Thermidor 191 

XLV. The Death of Robespierre . . . . .197 

XLVI. Lesurques . . 212 

XLVII. My Vocation 223 

XLVni. My Education . . 228 

XLIX. My First Execution 241 

L. LouvEL 247 

LI. My Executions 253 

APPENDIX . 287 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

AN EXPIATORY MASS. 

The death of Louis XVI. profoundly disturbed Charles 
Henri Sanson. I do not know whether I have shown 
this extraordinary man in sufficient relief. Charles 
Henri was a true descendant of his stoical grandmother. 
He had been imbued with her ideas and principles, and 
beheved in the legitimacy of his profession and social 
mission. He regarded himself as invested with stern 
and painful, yet withal necessary, functions. This con- 
viction had given him enough strength and courage to 
discharge duties which, I have every reason to believe, 
clashed with his natural disposition. His sense of duty 
had, however, been confirmed by forty years' experience. 
At times the cruelty of certain punishments, as in the 
case of Damiens, had slightly shaken his strong faith ; 
but a sentiment of obedience prevailed in the end, and 
his scruples vanished b efore the ce rt ainty that the judges 
were responsible for the sentences which he, as their 
blind instrument, carried out. 

With such a theory he could not but regard the 
VOL. II. B 



2 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

reprobation in which his functions were held as a 
prejudice of the worst description : hence his petitions 
to Parliament and the National Assembly. I may add 
that, in the case of the latter tribunal, my grandfather 
was so dissatisfied with the arguments suggested against 
his plea, that he immediately wrote the following letter 
to the members of the National Assembly : 

'Gentlemen, — For a long time the executioners of 
criminal judgments have complained of the injustice of a 
prejudice which partly awards to them the disgrace of 
the crimes which justice punishes through their instru- 
mentality. They have hitherto suffered the humiliation, 
and found sufficient consolation in their consciences. It 
is now attempted to sanction this prejudice by declaring 
them unfit to hold civil rights. Such is, at least, the in- 
tention expressed by the Abbe Maury in the sitting of 
the 23 rd of the present month. 

' The Abbe Maury's motion has caused us considerable 
alarm, and we are convinced that justice must be de- 
prived of its executive strength if the motion is carried. 

* The executioner of Paris, Charles Henri Sanson, 
who hereby presents to you his most respectful remon- 
strances, declares (and all his confrhes will follow his 
example) that he will tender his resignation if you 
declare that executioners are not citizens, 

* The petitioner trusts that you will deign to examine 
the question with the attention it deserves. At a time 
when justice prevails, you will not suffer it to be over- 
looked. 

' (Signed) SANSON, 

* Executioner of criminal sentences in the town of Paris.' 






AN EXPIATORY MASS. 3 

I said before that the Assembly gave no decision 
respecting the petition presented by the executioners. 
The Assembly allowed the decree to stand as it had 
been previously worded, thus leaving the executioners 
to infer that they had gained their point. They 
were, in fact, henceforth treated as citizens ; and we 
have seen my grandfather and father in the meetings of 
their sections and holding grades in the National 
Guard. 

Such had been, up to the death of the King, Charles 
Henri Sanson's feelings concerning what he styled the 
honour of his profession. The blood which flowed 
freely under the Convention altered his sentiments. 
Seeing an edifice he had been taught to respect falling, 
he began to doubt whether he had a right to believe 
in the scaffold after the overthrow of the throne ; 
whether the destruction of royalty did not call for the 
abolition of the office of executioner. These doubts es- 
pecially harassed him on the night that preceded the 
execution of the King. His state of mind can easily be 
imagined when it is remembered that he had sympathy 
for Louis XVI. More than once he thought of 
running away ; but thereby he would have exposed his 
family to great danger. 

On January 21 my grandfather, who seldom left his 
home except when he was obliged, only spent a few 
moments with his wife and children. He came to see 
them after the execution, and then hurried away and 
returned after midnight. My grandmother was be- 
coming very uneasy at his absence when Chesneau, who 

B 2 



4 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

was still living under Charles Henri Sanson's roof, told 
her that his old friend had asked him the address of an 
aged priest and two nuns he knew, and that he had pro- 
bably gone to see them. My grandmother understood the 
object of such a visit. She knew her husband's religious 
feelings, and guessed that, in spite of the perils and diffi- 
culties of the adventure, he was in quest of a remedy for 
his troubled conscience. 

Charles Henri Sanson returned at two o'clock in 
the morning, and before his friends had time to question 
him, he said : 

* Chesneau, I have seen your proteges. It is bitterly 
cold. You must take some provisions to them to- 
morrow. You will provide them with victuals every 
week. But I do not want you to say whence these 
provisions come. — I . have seen two nuns who are very 
miserable, my dear Mary,' he added, turning to my 
grandmother ; * if you can give them some clothing you 
will do them a good turn and oblige me.' 

Charles Henri Sanson retired after giving the above 
explanation of his absence. On the following day he 
related to his wife that he had found in a miserable hut 
of La Villette a priest who had escaped from the 
massacres of the Carmelites, and two nuns who had 
been driven away from their convent ; that the priest 
had promised him that he would celebrate a mass, far 
less for the repose of the soul of the King than for the 
peace of his (Sanson's) conscience. 

The secret of this expiatory mass was kept during 
the remainder of my grandfather's life ; but after his 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 5 

death, my grandmother and my father, believing that 
the anecdote would redound to his credit, related it to 
some of their friends. It came to the knowledge of an 
illustrious writer, Honore de Balzac, who begged my 
father to confirm its authenticity. His behest was 
granted, and, with the help of the additional elements 
furnished to him by my father, he wrote the following 
moving account : ^ 

Towards the end of the month of January 1793 
an old lady was descending the incline which leads to 
the St. Laurent Church, in the Faubourg St Martin. 
It was about eight o'clock in the evening. Snow had 
fallen in the morning, so that the sound of footsteps 
could hardly be heard. It was very cold. The streets 
were lonely, and the natural fear inspired by the silence 
that prevailed was intensified by the terror which, at the 
time, was pervading the whole of France. The old 
lady had met no one. Her weak sight was even unable 
to detect in the distance, by the light of the lanterns, a 
few loiterers scattered like shadows along the immense 
thoroughfare. She was fearlessly crossing this solitude, 
as if old age were a talisman which could preserve her 
from any mishap. 

After she had passed the Rue des Morts she thought 
she could detect the heavy and firm step of a man 
behind her. The idea that she was followed frightened 
her, and she stepped forward more briskly, so as to 
reach a well-lighted shop, hoping then to descry her 

^ This account has been reprinted in the edition of Balzac's complete 
works. 



6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

follower. As soon as she reached the first ray of hori- 
zontal light which issued from the shop, she suddenly- 
turned round and saw a man whose form she could but 
just discern through the fog. The indistinct vision was 
enough for her. She tottered under the terror where- 
with she was filled ; for she did not doubt that she 
had been followed by the stranger ever since she had 
left her abode. The desire to escape from her silent 
persecutor gave her strength, and, without reasoning, she 
went faster, as if she could get out of the reach of a man 
who, obviously, could easily keep up with her. After 
running for a few minutes, she reached a pastrycook's 
shop, rushed in, and fell, rather than sat down, on a 
chair before the counter. 

As she entered,. a young woman who was darning 
looked up. Recognising the old-fashioned shape of a 
violet silk cloak which covered the old lady's shoulders, 
she hastened to open a drawer, as if to take out some- 
thing she was to remit to her. The young woman's 
gesture and face betrayed a desire to get rid of the 
unknown as soon as possible, as if she had been one of 
those persons whom it is no pleasure to meet. She 
made a gesture of impatience on finding the drawer 
empty, and, without looking at the lady, she hurriedly 
left the counter, entered the back shop, and called her 
husband, who suddenly appeared. 

'Where have you put V she asked with an air 

of mystery, designating the old lady by a glance. 

She did not finish her query. Although the pastry- 
cook could only see the large black silk cap, adorned 



i 




AN EXPIATORY MASS, mj , /i 

with bows of violet ribbon, he disappeared, after lookirrg-^n/^ <l^ 
at his wife in a manner which seemed to signify : lX^tJ//^ 

'Do you think I am stupid enough to leave it on 
your counter ? ' 

Astonished at the silence and stillness of the old lady, 
the woman returned to her ; and, upon looking at her, 
she was seized with compassion, or rather with curiosity. 

Although the unknown lady's face was naturally 
livid, as that of a person addicted to austere habits, it 
was easy to see that some recent emotion had overcast 
it with extraordinary pallor. Her head gear was so con- 
trived as to conceal her hair, doubtless silvered by age ; 
for the cleanliness of her collar showed that she did not 
wear powder. Absence of any ornament gave her an 
appearance of religious severity. Her features were 
grave and proud. In former times the manners and 
habits of the upper class were so different from those 
belonging to other classes that it was easy to recognise 
a person of birth. The young woman was therefore 
convinced that the unknown was a ci-devanty and that 
she formerly belonged to the Court. 

' Madam,' said she, instinctively and with respect, 
forgetting that this appellation was prohibited. 

But the old lady made no answer. Her eyes were 
fixed on the panes of the shop, as if she saw a frightful 
apparition behind them. 

' What is the matter with you, citoyenne } ' enquired 
the master of the house, reappearing and calling the old 
lady's attention by handing her a small cardboard box 
wrapped in blue paper. 



8 . MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

* Nothing — nothing, friends/ she answered, in a soi 
voice. 

She looked up and thanked the pastrycook ; but on 
perceiving the red cap he wore, she uttered a scream. 

' You have betrayed me ! ' 

The young woman and her husband answered with 
a gesture of horror which brought a blush to the un- 
known lady's countenance. 

'Excuse me,* she said, with childish gentleness. 
Then taking a louis from her pocket, she presented 
it to the pastrycook. 

' Here is the price you mentioned.' 

There is a kind of poverty which the poor alone can 
guess. The pastrycook and his wife looked at each 
other, pointing to the old woman, and exchanged the 
same thought. This louis was probably the last she 
had. Her hands trembled when she offered it. She 
looked at it intently, but without avarice. Fasting and 
hardship were as visibly imprinted on her features as fear 
and ascetic habits. In her dress could be detected 
vestiges of splendour — worn-out silk ; a clean although 
faded cloak ; carefully mended lace, rags of opulence. 
The tradesman and his wife, hesitating between pity and 
love of gain, began by allaying their consciences in kind 
words. 

' But, citoyenne, you seem very faint.' 

' Would madam take something } ' exclaimed the 
wife, interrupting her husband. 

'We have some excellent broth,' said the pastry- 
cook. 



AN EXPIATORY MASS, 9 

' It is so cold. — Madam was probably taken unwell 
when she came, but you can remain here and warm 
yourself.* 

Encouraged by these kind expressions, the lady 
admitted that she had been followed by a man, and was 
afraid to return home alone. 

' Is that all } Wait a moment, citoyenne ! ' said the 
man with the red cap. 

He handed the louis to his wife, and impelled by 
the peculiar gratitude that fills a tradesman when he 
receives an exorbitant price for merchandise of moderate 
value, he retired, put on his uniform of National Guards- 
man, took up his hat and his musket, and reappeared. 

But his wife had had time to reflect, and reflection 
drove away her compassion. Fearful that her husband 
should meddle with some mysterious and dangerous 
business, she tried to pull him by his coat-tail ; but the 
pastrycook had already offered to escort the old lady. 

'The man who followed the lady is still lurking 
around the shop,' exclaimed the young woman. 

' I think he is,' candidly answered the old lady. 

*■ Perhaps he is a spy ! There may be some con- 
spiracy ! Don't go ; — and take the box away from her.' 

These words whispered in the pastrycook's ear by 
his wife deprived him of the slight courage he already 
possessed. 

* I'll go and speak to him, and get rid of him 
directly ! ' cried the pastrycook, rushing into the street. 

The old lady, as passive as a child, and quite bewil- 
dered, sat down again. 



lo MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. ^ 

The honest tradesman soon returned. His face, 
which was naturally red and inflamed by the heat of 
his oven, had suddenly turned pale, and he was so 
terrified that his legs shook like those of a drunkard. 

' Do you want to get us guillotined, you aristocrat ? ' he 
shrieked furiously, and with a thick utterance. ' Show us 
your heels — never come here again, and don't expect 
that I'll ever furnish you with elements of conspiracy.' 

And the pastrycook tried to gain possession of the 
small box, which the lady had thrust into one of her 
pockets. 

Hardly had the man's trembling hands touched her 
clothes than the unknown, preferring the dangers of the 
street, with God as her only protection, to the loss of 
that which she had just purchased, recovered the activity 
of her youth. She sprang to the door, opened it and 
disappeared, to the amazement of her trembling ag- 
gressors. 

The unknown walked on quickly, but her momentary 
vigour soon collapsed. She could hear the spy, who was 
still following her, and whose step cracked on the snow 
which he pressed down under his heavy feet. She was 
obliged to stop. He stopped also. She dared neither to 
look at him nor to speak to him, either out of fear or of 
inability to find words. She then resumed her way with 
a slower step, and he slackened his progress so as to 
remain at a reasonable distance. He seemed to be the 
old woman's very shadow. The church clock was 
striking nine when the silent couple passed again before 
St. Laurent. 



AN EXPIATORY MASS, il 

But It is in the nature of the soul, even in the most 
infirm, that calmness should follow a fit of violent 
agitation. It was probably due to this that the unknown 
lady, receiving no harm at the hands of her supposed 
persecutor, imagined that he was a secret friend who 
merely wished to afford her. protection. She remembered 
all the circumstances which had attended the stranger's 
appearance, as if to find support for this consoling 
opinion ; and thus she began to think that his intentions 
were good. Forgetting the terror evinced at his sight 
by the pastrycook, she advanced with a firm step along 
the higher regions of the Faubourg) St. Martin. 

After half an hour's walk, she reached a house 
situate near the cross formed by the principal street 
of the faubourg and the * road which leads to the 
gate of Pantin. This place was one of the most lonely 
in Paris. The wind, passing over the Buttes-Chaumont 
and Belleville, hissed between the houses, or rather the 
huts, scattered in this desolate vale. No blackness could 
be more discouraging than that which pervaded this 
spot, which seemed the natural refuge of poverty and 
despair. The man who relentessly pursued the poor 
creature who was bold enough to traverse these dark and 
deserted parts, appeared struck with the sight. He 
stopped, thoughtful and hesitant. The faint light of a 
lantern, dimly shining through the fog, revealed his form 
but imperfectly ; but fear improved the old woman's 
sight ; and as she imagined that the man's face was 
sinister, her terror returned. Whilst her pursuer was 
still hesitating, she glided, in the shadow, towards the 



12 MEMOIRS OF THE SANS ON S. 

door of the solitary house, turned the lock, and disap- 
peared with marvellous rapidity. 

The man was still motionless, looking at the house. 
It had the aspect of ^the buildings which give so miser- 
able an appearance to the suburbs of Paris. It looked so 
dilapidated that a gust of wind, to all appearance, might 
have scattered it. The brown tiles of the roof, covered 
with moss, seemed ready to sink under the weight of 
the snow. Each landing had three windows, so rotten 
and antiquated that the wind ffeely entered the rooms. 
The general appearance of the old house was that of a 
tower of which the elements were achieving the over- 
throw. A faint light could be seen through the three 
upper windows, and the remainder of the house was 
plunged in complete darkness. 

It was not without effort that the old woman ascended 
the steep and broken staircase, along which ran a rope 
in lieu of balustrade. She gave a gentle tap at the door 
of the upper apartment, and sat down in the chair 
which an old man hastened to present to her. 

* Hide yourself — quick ! ' said she, breathlessly ; ' for, 
although we do not often go out, our refuge is discovered 
and our steps are tracked.' 

* What is the matter } ' enquired another old woman, 
who was seated near the fire. 

* The man who has been lurking about the house 
for the last few days, followed me this evening.' 

At these words the three inhabitants of the garret 
looked at each other with every token of profound 
terror. The old man was the least agitated, perhaps 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 13 

because he was in greater peril than his female com- 
panions. When a brave man labours under a great 
misfortune, or feels under the yoke of constant persecu- 
tion, he submits to impending death, considering his days 
of respite as so many victories gained over fate. 

The two women's looks were directed towards the old 
man, and showed that he was the only cause of their fear. 

* Why should you not confide in God, my sisters 1 ' 
he said, in a low but unctuous voice. ' We sang His 
praises amidst the cries uttered by the murderers and 
the murdered in the Convent of Carmelites. If it was 
His will that I should be saved, it was doubtless to 
provide for me a fate which I am bound to accept 
without a murmur. God protects His ministers, and 
can act with them as He likes. You must think of 
yourselves, not of me.' 

' Nay, do not say so,' exclaimed the two old women. 

* I considered myself as dead from the day on which 
I left the Abbey of Chelles,' cried the one of the two nuns 
who was sitting near the fire. 

' Here is the Host,' said the other, handing to the 
priest the small box she had found so much trouble in 
procuring. 

*■ But,' she cried, ' I hear a step on the staircase ! ' 

At these words all three listened. The noise sub- 
sided. 

' Do not be frightened,' said the priest, ' if some one 
tries to enter. A person on whose fidelity we can 
reckon is preparing to cross the frontier, and will take 
the letters I have written to the Duke de Lorges 



14 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



I 



and the Marquis de Bethune, in which I beg them to 
think of the means of removing you from this horrible 
country — from death and misery, which are our con- 
stant attendants.' 

' Will you not come with us, then ? ' asked the nuns 
with a kind of despair. 

* My place is among victims ! ' said the priest with 
simplicity. 

They remained silent, eyeing their companion with 
admiration. 

* Sister Martha,' said he to the nun who had brought 
the Host, * the envoy I was speaking of is to answer Fiat 
vohmtas to the word Hosannah' 

*■ Some one is coming up the stairs ! ' exclaimed the 
other nun, opening a place of concealment cleverly 
built under the roof 

This time it was easy to hear, amidst profound 
silence, the steps of a man striking against pieces of hard 
mud which covered the stairs. The priest hastily entered 
a kind of cupboard, and the nun threw some clothes over 
him. 

'You can close the cupboard now. Sister Agatha,' 
said he, in a low voice. 

Hardly was the priest out of sight when three 
raps at the door startled the two poor creatures. They 
looked at each other without daring to utter a word. 

Construing their silence In his own way, the man who 
was knocking pushed open the door and suddenly ap- 
peared. The two nuns shuddered when they recognised 
the person who for the last five or six days had been 



I 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 15 

lurking around the house. They moved not, and eyed 
him with uneasy curiosity, in the manner of shy children 
who silently observe strangers. 

The man was of middle height and rather portly ; 
but nothing in his demeanour or in his face indicated 
malignity. He neither advanced nor spoke, but ex- 
amined the room. Two straw mats, stretched out on 
the fioor, were the only couch of the nuns. There 
was a table in the middle of the room. Thereon 
was placed a brass candlestick, a few plates, three 
knives, and a round loaf The fire was not of the 
brightest, and a few pieces of wood, heaped up in a 
corner, showed the poverty of the inmates. The walls,, 
which were painted over, betrayed the decrepid state 
of the roof, for brownish stains showed that water 
trickled down from above. A relic, saved probably from 
the sack of the Abbey of Chelles, was deposited on the 
mantelpiece. The remainder of the furniture consisted 
of three chairs, two boxes, and an old chest of drawers. 
A door near the mantelpiece indicated that there was 
another room on the same floor. 

This enumeration was made in a few seconds by the 
stranger who had appeared under such sinister auspices. 
A feeling of compassion was visible on his countenance, 
and he looked benevolently upon the two women. He 
seemed at least as embarrassed as they were, and the pause 
which followed lasted a full minute; At length the visitor 
perceived the moral weakness and inexperience of the 
poor creatures, and he said to them in a voice of which 
he tried to soften the tone : 



i6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

*■ I do not come here as an enemy, sisters. If some 
misfortune were to happen to you, do not attribute any 
share of it to me. I have a favour to ask.' 

They remained silent. 

' If I annoy you — if I cause you any inconveni- 
ence — speak fearlessly, I will retire ; but know that I 
am entirely devoted to you, and that if I can be of any 
service you can employ me without fear.' 

There was such an accent of truth in these words 
that Sister Agatha, who belonged to the family of 
Bethune, and whose manners seemed to indicate that 
in former days she had known the gaiety of fetes and 
breathed the atmosphere of the Court, pointed to a 
chair, as if inviting the speaker to sit down. The un- 
known manifested a kind of joy not unmingled with 
sadness, when he understood the gesture ; and he 
waited until the two nuns themselves were seated before 
he accepted the invitation. 

' You have given shelter,' he resumed, ' to a venerable 
priest, who miraculously escaped from the massacre of 
the Carmelites.' 

' Hosannah ! ' exclaimed Sister Agatha, interrupting 
the stranger. 

* That is not his name, I think,' answered he. 

* But, sir, we have no priest here,' said Sister Martha, 
'and ' 

'You should be more careful,' continued the 
stranger, in a gentle tone ; and he stretched out his 
hand and took up a breviary. ' You do not know Latin, 
and ' 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 17 

He stopped, for the extraordinary emotion which 
appeared on the features of the two nuns showed him 
that he was going too far. They trembled and their eyes 
were full of tears. 

' Be reassured/ said the unknown visitor, with a frank 
voice. * I know the name of your guest and yours also. 
Five days ago I heard of your distress, and of your devo- 
tion to the venerable Abbe de ' 

* Hush ! ' said Sister Agatha, with candour, putting up 
a finger. 

' You may perceive, sisters, that if I had the horrible 
intention of betraying you, I might have done so ere 
this.' 

Hearing these words, the priest emerged from his 
hiding-place and advanced towards the stranger. 

' I cannot believe, sir,' said he to him, ' that you are 
one of our persecutors, and I do not distrust you. 
What do you want t ' 

The priest's simple manner and the noble expression 
of his features might have disarmed even assassins. The 
mysterious individual who had given animation to this 
scene of misery looked for a few moments at the group 
formed by these three beings, and, assuming a tone of 
confidence, he spoke to the priest in the following terms : 

' Father, I came to beseech you to say a mass for 
the repose of the soul of a person whose body — whose 
body shall never be buried in hallowed ground.' 

The priest shuddered ; and the nuns, not understand- 
ing yet what the stranger wanted, remained, with out- 
stretched necks, in an attitude of curiosity. 
VOL. II. C 



i8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The priest scanned the stranger's features. Evident 
anxiety could be seen there, and his looks were humble 
and beseeching. 

* Well,' answered the priest, ' return at midnight : I 
shall then be ready to celebrate the only funeral service 
we can offer in expiation of crime.' 

The stranger started ; but a gentle and grave satis- 
faction overspread his features, and, after bowing respect- 
fully to the old priest and to the. nuns, he disappeared, 
manifesting a kind of silent gratitude which was under- 
stood by these generous souls. 

The stranger returned two hours after, and, after 
discreetly knocking at the door, he was introduced 
by Mdlle. de Charost. She led him to the second room 
on the same landing, where everything was prepared 
for the ceremony. 

Between two shafts the nuns had placed the old chest 
of drawers, of which the old-fashioned shape was con- 
cealed by an altar-covering of green moire. A large 
crucifix of ebony and ivory, attached to the yellow wall, 
showed off the nudity of the room and attracted the eyes. 
Four small thin tapers which the sisters had fixed with 
yellow wax upon this improvised altar furnished a pale 
and flickering light. These tapers hardly lighted the 
other parts of the room, but it made the holy objects 
discernible, and thereby looked like rays descending 
from Heaven on this unadorned altar. The floor was 
damp. The roof, which steeply descended on both 
sides, as is usual in garrets, was cracked, and an icy 
wind penetrated through the openings. Nothing could 



' AN EXPIATORY MASS. 19 

be less pompous, and yet never, perhaps, was anything 
more impressive than this gloomy ceremony. Profound 
silence overcast the scene with a kind of dark majesty; 
and the grandeur of the act so strongly contrasted with 
the poverty of the display that a sentiment of religious 
awe prevailed. 

The two old nuns were kneeling on either side of the 
altar, and, regardless of the dampness of the floor, they 
joined in the prayers of the priest who, clad in his 
pontifical vestments, was holding up a gold pyx studded 
with precious stones — a sacred vase saved, no doubt, 
from the pillage of the Abbey of Chelles. Then, next 
to this pyx, the wine and the water reserved for the holy 
sacrifice were contained in two glasses scarcely worthy 
of the lowest wine-shop. As he had no missal, the 
priest had placed his breviary on a corner of the altar. 
A common plate was provided for the laving of the 
innocent and bloodless hands. Everything was im- 
mense though small, poor though noble, profane and 
holy at the same time. 

The stranger piously kneeled between the two 
nuns ; but, suddenly perceiving a crape around the pyx 
and the crucifix, he was assailed by a recollection so 
painful that drops trickled down his brow. 

The four silent actors in this scene looked at each 
other mysteriously ; and then their souls, acting in 
unison, exchanged their religious sentiments, and joined 
with each other in religious commiseration. 

It seemed as if their thoughts had evoked the 
martyr whose remains had been devoured by quicklime. 



20 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

and as if his shadow was before them in all its majesty. 
They celebrated an Obit, without the body of the defunct. 
Under these tiles and disjointed rafters four Christians 
were about to intercede with God for a King of France, 
and to go through the funeral service without his 
coffin. It was the purest of devotions, an astonishing 
act of faithfulness accomplished without fear. The 
whole Monarchy was there, in the prayer of a priest 
and two poor women ; and perhaps the Revolution was 
also represented by this man, whose face betrayed too 
much remorse not to make believe that he was actuated 
by boundless repentance. 

Instead of pronouncing the Latin words introibo ad 
altare Dei, &c., the priest, by a divine inspiration, looked 
at his three companions who represented Christian 
France, and said to them : 

' Let us enter God's sanctuary ! ' 

At these words, uttered with impressive softness, 
the stranger and the two nuns were seized with religious 
awe. God could not have appeared more majestic 
under the cupola of St. Peter's at Rome than He then 
appeared to these Christians in this refuge of misery. 

The stranger's fervour was sincere. The sentiment 
which united the prayers of these four servants uf God 
and the King was unanimous. The holy words sounded 
like celestial music. When the Pater noster was said, 
tears came to the stranger's eyes. To this prayer the 
priest added, ' And forgive the regicides as Louis XVI. 
himself forgave them.' 

The two nuns saw two large tears rolling down the 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 21 

stranger's manly cheeks. The mass for the dead was 
recited. The Domine salvtim fac regent, sung in a low 
voice, moved these faithful Royalists. They thought 
that the child King on whose behalf they were imploring 
was in the hands of his enemies. 

When the service was terminated, the priest made a 
sign to the two nuns, who retired. As soon as he was 
alone with the stranger, he went up to him with a 
gentle and paternal air, and said to him, sadly : 

' My son, if you dipped your hands in the blood of 
the King, confide in me — there is no fault that cannot 
be forgiven by a repentance so sincere and so touching 
as yours.' 

At the priest's first words, the stranger made a 
movement indicating terror ; but he regained his self- 
possession, and looking calmly at the astonished ecclesi- 
astic : 

' Father,' said he, ' none is more innocent of the 
crime than I am.' 

' I am bound to believe you ! ' said the priest. 

There was a pause, during which he examined his 
penitent. Then, still believing him to be one of those 
timorous members of the Convention who sacrificed a 
royal head in order to preserve their own, he observed 
in a grave voice : ' Remember, my son, that it is not 
enough not to have taken part in this great crime to be 
absolved. Those who could defend the King and moved 
not a finger in his defence, shall have a heavy account 
to answer for before the King of Heaven. A heavy 
account indeed,' added the priest, shaking his head, * for 



22 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

they became the unwiUing accompHces of this horrible 
deed.' 

' Do you think,' enquired the stranger, with astonish- 
ment, ' that indirect participation will be punished ? 
Is, then, the soldier who attended the execution guilty 
of a crime? ' 

The priest hesitated. 

Happy at the embarrassment in which he had 
plunged this puritan of royalty, by placing him between 
the dogma of passive obedience which, according to the 
partisans of monarchy, should predominate in the army, 
and the equally important dogma which consecrates the 
respect due to the person of a King, the stranger 
hastened to construe this hesitation of the priest into a 
favourable answer to the doubts which engrossed him. 
He then said, not wishing to give further time for 
reflection to the venerable Jansenist : 

* I cannot offer an ordinary fee for the funeral service 
you have just celebrated for the repose of the soul of the 
King and for the quietude of my conscience. An in- 
valuable boon can only be returned by an equally 
invaluable offering. Deign to accept, therefore, this 
gift of a holy relic. A day shall come when you will 
understand its value.' 

The stranger, suiting the action to the word, offered 
the priest a very light and small box. The priest took 
it, impulsively as it were ; for the gravity of the man's 
words, and the respect with which he held the box, sur- 
prised him very much. 

They then returned to the room where the two nuns 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 23 

were waiting for them. ' You live in a house/ said the 
stranger, 'of which the owner, Mucius Ccevola, the 
plasterer who lives on the first floor, is famous, in his 
section, for his patriotism ; but he is secretly attached 
to the Bourbons. Formerly he was one of Prince de 
Conti's grooms, and what he possesses he got from his 
master. If you remain indoors, you are safer here than 
anywhere else in France. Do not move. Pious people 
will see to your wants, and you can wait for more 
prosperous days without danger. A year hence, on 
January 21 ' (in pronouncing these last words he could 
not restrain a shudder), * if you select this melancholy 
shelter for your abode, I shall return and celebrate with 
you the expiatory mass.' 

He bowed to the speechless inmates of the garret, 
cast a final look on the symptoms of their poverty, and 
went away. 

For the two innocent nuns, such an adventure had 
the interest of a romance. As soon as they were ap- 
prised of the mysterious present made by the unknown 
visitor to the venerable abbe, the box was placed on the 
table, and the three faces, feebly lighted by the candle, 
evinced uncontrollable curiosity. Mademoiselle de 
Charost opened the box, and found therein a rather 
large pocket-handkerchief of very fine cambric. It was 
soiled by a few drops of perspiration. After looking at 
it with scrupulous attention, they found a number of 
small dark spots, as if the cambric had received splashes. 

' It is blood ! ' said the priest, in a deep voice. 

The two sisters recoiled with horror from the relic. 



24 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



I 



For these simple creatures the mystery which surrounded 
the stranger became unexplainable. As for the priest, 
he did not even attempt to clear it. The three prisoners 
soon perceived that, even in the darkest days of the 
Reign of Terror, a powerful hand was extended over 
them. At first they received wood and provisions ; 
then the two nuns guessed that a woman was acting in 
unison with their protector, when they received linen 
and garments which enabled them to walk out without 
attracting attention by the quaintness of the old- 
fashioned dresses they had hitherto been compelled to 
wear. At length Mucius Ccevola gave them two cards 
of civism.^ They frequently received communications 
concerning the safety of the priest, and they found this 
advice so opportune and well-timed that they inferred 
that their correspondent must be familiar with the 
secrets of the State. In spite of the famine which 
prevailed in Paris, they found at their door rations of 
white bread, which were regularly brought by invisible 
hands. In these circumstances the noble inmates of the 
garret could not but believe their protector to be the 
person who had caused the expiatory mass to be cele- 
brated in the night of January 21, 1793. He therefore 
became the object of peculiar respect to these three 
poor creatures, who had no hope, save in him, and who 
lived solely through his agency. Morning and evening 
the pious souls made wishes for his prosperity and sal- 
vation. 

\ ' The carte de civisme was a kind of passport with which it was impos- 
j sible to dispense during the Reign of Terror. — N. Ed. 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 25 

Their gratitude, being, as it were, rekindled every 
day, was naturally attended with a feeling of curiosity 
which became more and more intense. The circum- 
stances that had accompanied the appearance of the 
stranger formed the usual subject of their conversations. 
They made a thousand conjectures, and the occupation 
thereby furnished to them was an additional boon. They 
were resolved not to allow him to shirk their friendship 
when he returned according to his promise, to celebrate 
the melancholy anniversary of the death of Louis XVI. 
The long-expected evening came at last. 

At midnight the heavy step was heard again on the 
old wooden staircase. The room had been prepared for 
his reception. The altar was in its place. This time 
the sisters hurried to the door before the stranger had 
time to reach the top landing, and lighted his way. 
Mdlle. de Charost even descended a few steps, thus 
sooner to catch sight of her benefactor. 

' Come,' said she, in a moved and affectionate voice. 
' Come ; you are expected.' 

The man raised his head, threw a dark look at the 
nun, and did not answer. She felt as if a dress of ice 
enveloped her, and was silent. The stranger entered, 
and at his sight gratitude and curiosity expired in every 
heart. He was perhaps less cold, taciturn, and gloomy 
than he had at first appeared to these beings, whose 
exalted sentiments yearned to launch into friendship. 
The three poor prisoners understood that this man 
vv^ished to remain a stranger to them, and they sub- 
mitted. The priest thought he detected a faint smile 



26 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 



I 



on the stranger's face when he saw the preparations that 
had been made for his reception. He heard mass, 
prayed, and disappeared, after answering by a few words 
of negative politeness to Mdlle. de Charost's invitation 
to share a small repast she had prepared. 

The expiatory mass was mysteriously celebrated in 
the garret until public worship was re-established by 
the First Consul. When the nuns and the abbe could 
reappear in the world without fear, they saw the unknown 
no more. 

The ' Unknown ' was, as I said before, Charles Henri 
Sanson, my grandfather, who sought, by a pious cere- 
mony, to pacify his troubled conscience. Our family 
watched over these poor proscripts until the end of the 
Reign of Terror, and the abbe and sisters never knew 
the name of their protector ; for the sequel of the story 
related by Balzac (which I have omitted) is not true, and 
was only written for the wants of fiction. 

The relic offered to the old priest by Charles Sanson 
was the handkerchief the King held on reaching the 
scaffold. He had used it more than once, on the way 
from prison, to wipe the perspiration from his forehead, 
and a few drops of blood had stained it after the head 
had fallen. The different garments worn by the un- 
fortunate monarch at the time of his death were carefully 
preserved by my grandfather. He was, however, unable 
to withhold some articles from his assistants, who, as I 
was told, sold them for large sums. 

My father asked for and obtained the shoes and the 



AN EXPIATORY MASS. 27^ 

collar buckle ; and he was only induced to part with them 
by an event which is worth relating. A few days after 
the King's death a horseman, followed by a servant, rang 
at our door, and asked for the master of the house. My 
grandfather was out ; so my father received the visitor. 
The latter was a man of fine appearance, in the flower 
of age ; he was dressed in black, and the Bourbonian 
cast of his features strongly reminded my father of 
Louis XVI. 

' Sir ! ' said the new comer, who appeared much 
moved, ' I am told that you possess different objects 
which once belonged to the late King. As I suppose 
you wish to sell them, I came to make you an offer.' 

' Sir,' answered my father, somewhat nettled, *we have, 
as you say, kept a few articles of apparel belonging to 
the late King, but we owe no explanations to anyone con- 
cerning the use we intend to make of them ; and I may as 
well tell you at once that we do not propose to part with 
them, at any price. 

The visitor looked surprised. 

' What ! if I offered you a princely ransom for your 
prize ' 

' We would not accept it.' 

While he was speaking, my father looked attentively 
at the stranger, and the similarity of his features and of 
those of Louis XVL struck him again. His features were 
finer than the unfortunate prince's, but it was the same 
aquiline nose, high forehead, and thick lips which formed 
the typical signs of the race of the Bourbons. The 
visitor glanced around the room, and, seeing on the wall 



28 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 






a very fine engraving of one of the last portraits of 
Louis XV., an expression of surprise and emotion ap- 
peared on his countenance. This engraving, dated 1733, 
was due to Daulle, one of the celebrated engravers of 
the time. 

* If you knew,' said he, ' on what grounds I ask 
for these melancholy souvenirs, perhaps you would not 
refuse to let me have them. Let me inform you that 
I belong, by secret relationship, to the family of the 
royal victim. I am the son of the King whose portrait 
I have before me ; I am usually styled the Abbe de 
Bourbon,' 

My father looked at the engraving, and saw that his 
visitor bore a wonderful likeness to Louis XV. The 
Abbe de Bourbon, as he was called, was one of the 
illegitimate sons of this voluptuous monarch, who were 
indeed far too numerous to be legally recognised. 
Secretly protected by Louis XVI., the young abbe had 
been enabled to lead a semi-princely life. This pa- 
tronage had inspired deep gratitude in the Abbe de 
Bourbon ; and his desire to possess some remembrance 
of his beloved protector was but natural. My father 
could not resist his entreaties, and he gave him the shoes 
wHich the King had used last, and his collar buckle. He 
declined to accept any remuneration, and considered 
himself amply repaid by the abbe's profuse thanks. 



29 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

THE LA ROUERIE CONSPIRACY. 

The tribunal instituted on August lO, shortly after 
the King's death, was replaced by the ' Revolutionary 
Tribunal,' and the guillotine, which for some days had 
remained bloodless, was again in daily demand. The 
executions which took place then are not of sufficient 
importance to be recorded in these memoirs ; and no 
name worth mentioning occurs in my notes up to the 
famous conspiracy of La Rouerie, which aimed at 
nothing less than the overthrow of the Republic. 

The larger portion of the nobility had emigrated ; 
but a goodly number of seigneurs still remained i n 
Franc e^ T hese noblemen lived far from each other in 
their castles and country-seats, and watched with fear 
the progress of the Revolution. They abhorred the new 
state of things, and longed to take their revenge ; but 



fear kept them apart, andlTieir separation prevented them . 

Curiously enough, it was an obscure individual who 
undertook to bring together all these elements which 
were hostile to the new regime, and therewith to form 
in the west of France a league sufficiently powerful to 



30 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

destroy the young Republic. This man's name was 
Tuffin de la Rouerie. 

He was one of those bold and active individuals who 
love adventure. The beginning of his career was very 
romantic. He entered the army, and, after distinguishing 
himself as an officer, he became a Trappist. But such a 
man could riot be content with wearing the cassock ; he 
left La Trappe, and took part in the American War of 
Independence. 

On his return to France, he showed some favour for 
the new ideas that were then spreading like wildfire ; 
the danger of the King, however, excited his imagination, 
and rekindled his lukewarm loyalty. He went to 
Coblentz, and proposed to the princes to go and foment 
an insurrection in Brittany. 

La Rouerie returned with a moderate sum of money ; 
and, with no help beyond his own indomitable will, he 
undertook to realise the plan he had devised. 

The record of his life would fill a volume, during 
the year he employed in organising the conspiracy 
which extended over the whole of Brittany, and which 
but for the death of its originator would have becoir^e 
one of the most gigantic ever recorded by history. He 
was everywhere and nowhere ; he was seen in Jersey, 
in London, in Coblentz, and a few days after his steps 
were traced in the wilds of Brittany. 

The plot was his own work. He confided his secret 
to no intermediary ; he himself visited the most humble 
partisans of royalty, raised their courage, and stimulated 
their zeal. He showed them the King's palace invaded, 



1 



THE LA ROUERIE CONSPIRACY. 31 

the royal family outraged, the King's head covered with 
the red nightcap. He proved to them the necessity of 
defending royalty by arms. If age, infirmities, or sex 
prevented them from joining the civil war, he very 
cleverly obtained a year of their income for the benefit 
of the enterprise. 

In the month of August 1 792 the nets of the conspiracy 
extended to all towns, villages, and hamlets in Brittany, 
and La Rouerie was the only man who held the strings 
of the plot. His excessive prudence prevented the plot 
from succeeding, and saved France from great danger. 
The revolution of August 10 appalled La Rouerie. 
Until then he had waited for a favourable opportunity. 
The King was now a prisoner, the Prussians were in 
full retreat, and he began to fear that the time was past 
and that it was too late. 

Sorrow, excitement, and, above all, the extraordinary 
fatigues he had endured, had ruined his health ; his 
^ame gave way, and he sought shelter at Lamballe ; 
but suspicious faces having been observed around the 
house where he was concealed, he sought another 
refuge, after burying in the garden all the papers he 
possessed ; and, under the name of Gosselin, he claimed 
the hospitality of a Breton gentleman of the neighbour- 
hood, M. Delamotte de Laguyomerais. La Rouerie 
now felt that he was dying. He revealed his real name 
to his host, and did not conceal the danger to which 
his generous hospitality exposed him. Although the 
local authorities had no knowledge of the extent of the 
conspiracy, its existence was no secret to them. Two 



32 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

of La Rouerie's agents, Latouche and Lalligaud- 
Moriilon, had sold to Danton the secrets which had 
been entrusted to them. A reward had been offered 
for La Rouerie's apprehension. The dying man stoic- 
ally indicated to his host the precautions he was to 
take in order to conceal his body and prevent it from 
being identified ; and shortly afterwards he expired. 

M. de Laguyomerais applied to a surgeon of St. 
Servan, named Lemasson, with whom he was acquainted. 
The latter disfigured La Rouerie's corpse by numerous 
incisions, and in the following night the conspirator was 
deposited in a neighbouring wood, in a hole full of quick- 
lime. 

Unfortunately for M. de Laguyomerais, there was a 
traitor among his servants ; a certain Chefty denounced 
him, and the remains of the proscript were discovered. 
It was ascertained that he had spent several days at 
Lamballe, at Mdme. de la Fauchais's house ; and a search 
in this lady's garden led to the discovery of the papery 
which La Rouerie had consigned to the earth. La Rouerie 
had, however, destroyed the list of his accomplices. 
But M. de Laguyomerais, his family and his servants, 
the surgeon of St. Servan, and a few Breton gentlemen 
were arrested, sent to Paris, and arraigned before the 
Revolutionary Tribunal. 

The trial began on August 8, and lasted ten days. 
The two sons of M. de Laguyomerais were discharged ; 
M. de Laguyomerais himself, and his wife, Marie- Jeanne 
Micault ; his brother-in-law, Mathurin Micault de 
Minville ; Mdme. de la Fauchais ; the Abbe Thebaut 



THE LA ROUERIE CONSPIRACY. 33 

de Lachavenais, tutor of Laguyomerais' sons ; Anne de 
Pontavis, late officer in the Armagnac regiment ; Picot 
de Moelan ; Locquer de Granville ; and Gurge de 
Fontevieux, were sentenced to death ; and on August 1 8 
they suffered their fate with the greatest courage. 

Shortly before the above affair, another remarkable 
trial occurred. The Convention had sent to the depart- 
ment of Jura two of its members, Leonard Bourdon 
and Prost, with the mission of watching the operation of 
recruiting. The two delegates had stopped at Orleans, 
where an attempt was made to murder Bourdon. The 
Convention, indignant at the treatment offered to one 
of its members, called the municipality of Orleans 
before it. Orleans was noted for its lukewarm republic- 
anism, and the Government deemed it necessary to 
make an example ; the municipality was suspended, 
and a number of national guards who had attacked 
Bourdon were arrested and brought before the Revolu- 
tionary Tribunal. Four were acquitted, and nine were 
sentenced to death. 

My grandfather received Fouquier-Tinville's injunc- 
tion to be ready ; but public opinion Was so strongly 
bent on clemency that Charles Henri Sanson himself, 
who was rather sceptical in such matters, did not think 
the execution would take place. Petitions were pre- 
sented to the Convention in favour of the culprits, but 
no notice of them was taken, and the nine Orleanese 
were led to the scaffold. They were no exception to the 
rule, and died with great firmness. 

VOL. II. D 



34 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

CHARLOTTE CORD AY. 

On July 13, at the very moment when the corpses of 
the nine Orleanese were being taken to the cemetery of 
La Madeleine, another representative of the people was 
murdered. This was Marat, and the hand that dealt 
the death blow was a woman's. 

There lived at Caen a girl named Marie- Anne Char- 
lotte-de Corday d'Armont. Her family belonged to the 
aristocracy, and one of her ancestors was one of the greatest 
national glories of France. Jacques Frangois de Corday 
d'Armont, her father, was the descendant of Marie 
Corneille, sister of the author of ' Le Cid.' M. de Corday 
was poor ; his daughter Charlotte was a child when her 
mother died, and these circumstances influenced her over- 
sensitive and enthusiastic nature. She strongly sym- 
pathised with the Revolution, and it was in a fit of 
revolutionary fanaticism that she determined to go to 
Paris and kill Marat, whom she regarded as the worst 
enemy of the new regime. 

She confided her intention to no one, and secretly 
left Caen for Paris on July 9, and arrived on the nth. 




wiMnuoTTS comi 



CHARLOTTE CORD AY. 35 

On the following day, she went to see Duperret, a 
member of the Convention, for whom she had a letter. 
He promised to take her on the following day to the 
Home Office, where she wished to solicit on behalf of 
one of her friends, Mdlle. de Forbin. On the Saturday 
before calling on Duperret at the appointed hour, she 
wrote a note to Marat, asking for an interview. 
Charlotte Corday then called on the minister, in her 
protector's company ; but Duperret was not in favour, 
and he could not obtain an audience. He accompanied 
Charlotte as far as the Palais-Royal and left her. When 
she was alone she entered a cutler's shop, and bought a 
knife with an ebony handle, and then returned to her 
hotel, expecting to find there Marat's answer. 

Marat was ill ; for some time he had not attended 
the sittings of the Convention. It seems to have been 
Charlotte Corday's original idea to strike him in the 
very assembly of which he was a member ; but his 
indisposition necessitated a change in her plans. She 
called at Marat's house on the 13th, but was not 
admitted. She returned in the evening, and on her 
assurance that her business was of a pressing nature, 
she was at length ushered into Marat's presence. 

The ' father of the people,' as he was styled, was in 
his bath. A cloth had been thrown over the bath, and 
Marat was writing on a board, which he used as a desk. 
He put a few questions to Charlotte, who suddenly 
approached the bath ; leaning over Marat she struck him 
with her knife. The blow was dealt with such force 
that the weapon entered Marat's bosom up to the 



36 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

handle. Marat uttered a cry and expired almost in- 
stantly. 

His .shriek for help brought in a commissionnaire 
named Laurent Basse, and two female attendants. 
Charlotte Corday was standing near the window, and 
did not try to escape. The commissionnaire struck her 
down with a chair ; she rose, but Basse knocked her 
dowTi a second time, and held her to the ground, while 
the two attendants and a surgeon were carrying Marat 
to his bed. A number of national guards came up, and 
Charlotte Corday was arrested. 

The news was soon known at large, and an immense 
crowd assembled around Marat's dwelling, clamouring 
for the assassin's head. It was not deemed prudent to 
take Charlotte to prison until popular effer\'escence had 
subsided ; she was therefore incarcerated in Marat's 
apartment, where Guellard du Mesnil, a commissary of 
f)ohce, questioned her. She answered all questions with 
a calmness and dignity which never forsook her until her 
death. A few hours after, she was taken to the Prison 
de I'Abbaye, where the members of the Committee of 
Public Safety' interrogated her several times. 

Charlotte appeared before the Revolutionar}- Tri- 
bunal on July 17. She showed, great firmness during 
the trial, the result of which, of course, was a foregone con- 
clusion. After the jury had given in a verdict of death, 
she asked the gendarmes to take her to her counsel, 
M. Chauveau de la Garde, whom she heartily thanked 
for his services. Charlotte Corday was then trans- 
ferred to her cell, whence she was soon to be led to the 



I 




JEAN PAUL MAJLAT 
' THK FKorLs's runD 



CHARLOTTE CORDAY. 37 

Place de la Revolution. A priest came forward, but she 
firmly although courteously declined his services. 

She had hardly been ten minutes in her cell when a 
painter, who had commenced a sketch of her in the 
course of the trial, entered and asked her permission to 
finish it Charlotte readily acquiesced. During the 
sitting, which lasted an hour and a half, the unfortunate 
creature conversed freely with the artist, and she evinced 
neither surprise nor fear when the door was again thrown 
open, to admit the clerks of the court and the executioner. 
My grandfather had brought the red shirt reserved for 
parricides, which Charlotte Corday was to wear on her 
way to the guillotine. 

In a preceding chapter I stated that Charles Henri 
Sanson had, during a period of the revolutionary crisis, 
kept_a__ diary, not only of execu tions but also of h is 
pe rsonal im pressions. T his record only became regular 
towards the end of Bru maire 1793 ; b ut my grandfather 
wrote a circumstantial account of Charlotte Corday's 
execution. I give it here in full : 

'On this day, Wednesday, July 17, first year of the 
one and indivisible Republic, I executed Charlotte 
Corday, of Caen, who murdered the patriot Marat, 
member of the Convention. 

' On Wednesday, 17th, as above, at ten o'clock in the 
morning, I went to take the orders of Citizen Fouquier- 
Tinville. Citizen Fouquier was busy ; he sent word for 
me to wait. Meanwhile I went out, and had some 
breakfast. At one o'clock in the afternoon a citizen 
who had just left the Tribunal told me that the girl was 



38 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



convicted. I made haste back, and met Citizen Fouquier 
in the witnesses' room. He was quarreUing with Citizen 
Montane, whom he charged with being too favourable to 
the accused. They entered a private room, and remained 
there an hour and a half. On reappearing, Citizen 
Fouquier saw me and said angrily, " What are you dally- 
ing here for } " I answered that he had given me no orders. 
Citizen Fabricius handed me a copy of the judgment, 
and we went to the Conciergerie together. I spoke to 
Richard, the gaoler, and observed that his wife was pale 
and frightened. I enquired whether she was unwell. She 
said, " Wait a moment, and perhaps your heart will fail 
you too." Richard conducted us to the cell occupied by 
the culprit. Citizens Tirrasse and Monet, the clerks of 
the Tribunal, entered first. I remained on the threshold. 
In the cell were two persons, a gendarme, and a citizen 
who was finishing Charlotte Corday's portrait. She was 
writing something on the back of a 4DOok. She looked 
in my direction, and asked me to wait. When she had 
finished. Citizens Tirrasse and IMonet read out the judg- 
ment, and meanwhile Charlotte Corday folded the paper 
on which she had written and gave it to Citizen Monet, 
requesting him to hand it to Pontecoulant, the deputy. 
She then removed her chair to th e middle o f the room ^ 
toolT^fif h^r cap, sat down, and told me to cut her hair. 
Since M. de la Barre I had not seen courage equ al to ^ 
JiersT^Ve were, in all, six or seven men, whose profes- 
sion was anythingJbut_softening ; and yet she was"Tes s 
moved than we were. WhenTier hair was cropped, sh e 
gave a part of it to the artist who had taken her portrait, 



.U)(\Ll 



CHARLOTTE CORD AY. 39 

and handed the remainder to Richard, the gaoler, re- \ ^ 
questing him to give it to his wife. I gave her the red 
shirt, which she arranged herself. As I was preparing 
to pinion her, she asked me whether she could keep her 
gloves, because those who had tied her when she was 
arrested had tightened the cords so much that her 
skin was broken. I answered that she could do as she 
liked, but that I could pinion her without hurting her. 
She smiled and said, " To be sure you ought to know how 
to do it ! " and held out her naked hands. We entered 
the cart, which contained two chairs, one of which I pre- 
sented to her. She declined, and I told her that she was 
right, as the jolting of the cart was less trying in an erect 
position. She smiled, but was silent. There was thunder 
and rain when we reached the quays, but the c rowd was 
as thick as ever. There had been a good many cries 
on our leaving the Conciergerie ; but these cries became 
less and less numerous as we advanced. Insults came 
only from those who marched around the cart. At a win- 
dow in the Rue St. Honore, I recognised Citizens Robes- 
pierre, Camille, Desmoulins, and Danton, members of the 
Convention. Citizen Robespierre appeared very excited, 
and spoke a great deal to his companions ; but the latter, 
and particularly Citizen Danton, did not seem to hear him, 
so attentively did they look at the culprit. I myself often 
turned round to look at her. And the more I saw of her 
the more I wished to see. It was not on account of her 
personal beauty, great as that was ; but I thought it was_ 
impossible that she could remain so calm and courageous 
as I saw her ; yet wha t I hither to considered as beyond 



40 , MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the strength of human nerve happened. During the two 
hours I spent in her company I could detect no sign of 
anger or indignation on her face. She did not speak ; 
she looked, not at those who insulted her, but at the 
citizens who were at the windows. The crowd was so 



dense that our cart advanced very slowly. As she was 
sighing, I said to her : "■ You find the way very long, I 
fear .^" " No matter," she replied ; "we are sure to reach 
the scaffold sooner or later." I rose as we reached the 
Place de la Revolution, and stood before her, in order to 
conceal the sight of the scaffold from her; but she 
insisted on looking at the machine, saying, " I have a 
right to be curious ; this is the first time I see it ! " 
In stepping out of the cart, I perceived that unknown 
individuals had mingled with my assistants. While I 
was requesting the gendarmes to clear the place, 
Charlotte Corday nimbly ascended the steps of the 
guillotine. On reaching the platform, Fermin, one of my 
men, suddenly snatched away her neckerchief, and she 
stretched out on the weigh-plank of her own accord. 
Although I was not ready, I thought it would be 
barbarous to prolong the poor girl's sufferings, even for 
a second, and I made a sign to Fermin, who pulled the 
rope. I was still at the foot of the scaffold when one 
of those who had tried to meddle with a business which 
was not theirs, a carpenter named Legros, picked up 
Charlotte Corday's head and showed it to the people. 
Although I was used to this kind of thing, I could 
not help turning away. It was by the murmurs of the . 
crowd that I became aware that the rascal had struck 



CHARLOTTE CORD AY. 41 

the head ; and I was afterwards told that the face 
turned red, as if resenting the insult. When I went 
home, the prediction of Richard's wife was realised. 
As I was sitting down, my wife said to me, " What is 
the matter with you — why are you so pale ? " ' 

My grandfather wrote to the papers, contradict- 
ing the statement that the perpetrator of the outrage 
he has just related was one of his assistants. The 
Revolutionary Tribunal ordered Legros to be arrested, 
and publicly reprimanded him. 



42 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

CUSTINE. 

After the painful execution of the preceding chapter, 
we again relapse into 'unimportant e xecutions ) but the 
quantity makes up for the quality. 

On July 1 8 Joseph Mazellier, late officer in the 
cavalry regiment of Royal-Piemont, convicted of emigra- 
tion and condemned to death by the Revolutionary 
Tribunal, was executed. 

On the 19th a working man, Jean Pierre Pelletier, was 
sent to the scaffold for endeavouring to pass a forged 
assignat, which he knew to be spurious. 

On the 20th, 24th, and 25th three emigrants suffered ; 
these were Louis Charles de Malherbe, late infantry 
officer; Joseph Frangois Coquard, and Francois Charles 
Coquereau, also officers. Malherbe was barely twenty 
years of age. 

On the 27th Riche Thomas St. Martin perished 
for the crime of forgery. 

At this time the Tribunal was modified in a manner, 
which promised a still more j>lentiful ha rvest of head s. 
The Committee of Public Safety divided it into two 
sections, and raised to thirty the number of the judges. 



CUSTINE. 43 

Montane, the president of the Tribunal, had himself been 
arraigned before the second section for favouring Char- 
lotte Corday. He was, however, g^quitted. 

From the ist to the 17th of August the two sections 
sent to the guillotine Pierre Maurice Collinet de la 
Salle-Souville, late lieutenant-general, for corresponding 
with his_ nephews, who had emigrated; Charles Joseph 
Lescuyer, late general of the Belgian cavalry, convicted 
of complicity with Dumouriez ; Jean-Baptis te Tour tier^ 
a ci-deyant_\ Andre Jonas, a gendarme of the twenty- 
ninth division, for saying in a cafe that when he heard_of 
the King's death he wanted to leave his regiment, in 
order not to serve the Republic ; and an emigrant 
priest, Jean-Joseph Saunier. 

On the 15th General Custine appeared before the 
Tribunal. 

Republican enthusiasm would not admit that the 
soldiers of liberty could be conquered otherwise than by 
treason. This profound and sincere faith in the para- 
mount power of right was the element of the triumphs 
of the Republic, and the principle of its future grandeur. 
Unfortunately the generals of the French army were far 
from sharing the sublime confidence. They were for 
the most part old officers, who believed in nothing 
beyond discipline, tactics, and regular battles, and who 
smiled when they read the messages in which the Conven- 
tion decreed victory. The result was that the move- 
ment of retreat was followed by an outburst of popular 
indignation, and the unlucky general was usually 
charged with wilful neglect of duty. 



44 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

Dumouriez's treason unfortunately justified this 
national mistrust. As to Custine, who commanded the 
army of the North, he had not deemed it prudent to re- 
lieve besieged_ Valenciennes until his troops were re- 
organised. He was charged with treason, and arraigned 
before the Revolutionary Tribunal. 

Popular irritation was very great against him. There 
can be no doubt that Custine was not faultless, but his 
last campaign had not been without glory. While man- 
oeuvring on the flanks of the Prussian army which 
Dumouriez was opposing, he had captured Worms, 
Frankental, Regensburg, Frankfort, &c. ; but he was with 
reason charged with not having turned these advantages to 
profit, and thereby transformed the retreat of the Prussians 
into a rout. He had allowed the enemy to recapture 
Frankfort ; he had insufficiently victualled Regensburg, 
in which Kleber was bravely holding out. Such mistakes 
were murderous to Kleber's military repute, but they did 
not deserve death. The Tribunal remained undecided 
for some time, for the trial lasted not less than fourteen 
days. But Custine was not liked, and the then powerful 
Hebert was his mortal foe. Custine nevertheless re- 
tained his presence of mind ; he explained his military 
operations, and his counsel, Trenson Ducoudray, spoke 
eloquently in his favour. 

The Tribunal retired after these two speeches, and 
on returning gave a verdict of guilty on all counts. 
Custine could not jwithhold an expression_ofdespair 
when sentence of death was passed, He recovered his 



seH-possession^, however, and a touching letter_ta— 



■^A 



-A- 



CUSTINE. 45 

his_son^jhen a prisoner at La F o^. The execution 
was appointed to take place on the following day, 
August 28, at twelve. At nine o'clock Charles Henri 
Sanson entered Custine's prison. He found him on his . :>^ 
knees^raying with the Abbe Lothringer, metropolitan 
vicar, whose assistance he had asked for. The priest 
requested my father to wait outside for a few minutes. 
Shortly after, Custine himself came to fetch him. 
Custine's countenance was firm ; but it was easy to 
perceive that he was labouring under nervous prostration. 
His hair was cut ; afterwhjch he assumed his uniform, .'~"^. 
saying that it___^was thus a French general should die. rwo ,/ 
He asked that his hands should only be tied at the . ^^ 
foot of the scaffold, and his petition was granted. 

He walked to the cart so rapidly that the Abbe 
Lothringer and the executioners had some trouble in 
keeping up with him. When the gloomy procession 
appeared in the street, there was as usual a loud clamour. 
General Custine turned very pale, and said several 
times : ' These are the very people who used to applaud 
my victories ! ' As the cries became more vociferous, he 
added : ' This is the reward of my services I ' and the 
name of Dumouriez came to his lips. The Abbe 
Lothringer besought him to be resigned. Custine's 
eyes filled with tears, and he began to read in the prayer- 
book offered to him by the priest. 

The stoicism displayed by Charlotte Corday had 
spoilt the mob. Her gentle and contemptuous attitude 
was well remembered, and the people doubtless expected 
that the general of their army would exhibit a disdain 






46 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



rhmtc 



'Alffic4 



for death still more superb. The sight of a pale old 
man plunged in p rayer, instead of what was expected, 
excited popular fury, and cries and curses became 
universal. 

When the cart halted before the scaffold, Custine 
turned round, not to see the instrument of death. His 
features were so discomposed that my gran dfather 
thought he was going to faint ; the priest was under 
the same impression, for he bent towards the general's 
ear, and said to him in German : ' General, 'tis only 
death, which you defied a hundred times on the battle- 
field ; and yet you were not then, as you are n ow, ready 
to appear before your God.' The general shook his head, 
and then taking his confessor's hand : * You are right,' 
said he, ' and yet I am sorry a Prussian cannon ball did 
not do the work.' He then looked at the k«^, which 
glittered under the mid-day sun. While his hands were 
being tied, he asked that he should be allowed to hold 
the prayer-book to the last. He then ascended with a 
firm step the steps of the scaffold, and his head fell 
under the knife, into the basket, a few seconds after. 
^i^ It may be justifiable to doubt Custine's genius as a 
general ; but it is impossible to deny him the first of 
military virtues, courage ; his was proverbial in the 
French army. And yet he did not encounter death 
with the calm bravery which we found among ordinary 
citizens, whose profession and habits were quite peace- 
ful, and even among women. This phenomenon shows 
the difference that exists between nervous excitement, 
which can make a hero of a man, and the manly forti- 



CUSTINE. 47 

tude which remains unshaken, even by the most hideous j i/yvW^ 
of deaths. It shows the superiority of civil over miHtary j "^ 
courage. ' 

The importance of Custine's trial had retarded the 
progress of another case, that of twenty-one inhabitants 
of Rouen, accused of having incited their countrymen to 
civil war, of having harboured the white cockade, and 
sawed the tree of liberty. This interesting case was 
resumed on the morrow of the general's death. Ten, 
among whom were two women, were sentenced to death 
and guillotined.^ 

The 1 6th of Vendemiaire following was a noteworthy! 
day in the history I am now writing. Until then the' 
Republic had only struck its enemies ; on the i6th of 
Vendemiaire she began her self-destruction by slaying 
one of those who had powerfully contributed to her 
establishment. Gorsas, deputy and journalist, whose 
lawsuit with my grandfather the reader may remember, 
was the first member of the Convention who ascended 
the scaffold, where the most illustrious among his 
colleagues were soon to follow him. Gorsas had 
evaded the arrest decreed on June 2 against him and 
his friends of the Gironde. Pethion, Barbaroux, Louvet, 
and several others had gone into the provinces to raise 
an insurrection against the autocracy of the capital ; 
Gorsas had refused to join them. He was an ardent 
writer, a tribune of the press, and he understood that his 

' Here the translator has omitted a long list of executions which, be- 
yond testifying to the completeness of the present Memoirs, offer no par- 
ticular interest. 



48 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 




strength was in Paris. The decree of July 28, describing 
as a crime the contempt showed by the Girondins for 
the so-called national authority, had declared them out- 
laws. Peril could not induce Gorsas to leave Paris ; for 
three months he lived in hiding, but he was at length 
arrested. He was taken before the Revolutionary 
Tribunal, and from thence to the scaffold. 

Gorsas was brave to the last. When my grandfather 
saw his former enemy, he tried to avoid being seen by 
him ; but Gorsas espied him at the foot of the scaffold, 
and cried to him in a loud voice : 

' Why do you stand aside. Citizen Sanson } Come 
and enjoy your triumph. We thought we were over- 
throwing the Monarchy : we have only founded your 
reign.' 

My grandfather made no reply and looked down. 
Indeed he was beginning to have enough of his royalty. 




FROM THE STORY OF MARIE-ANTCINETTE." 

MARIE-ANTOINETTE AND HER CHILDREN. 



49 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

THE QUEEN, 

However enthusiastic a great many people may be 
respecting the general results of the Revolution, it seems 
to me impossible to think without some emotion of 
a Queen who in less than a year was deprived of 
her throne and liberty — of a woman widowed by the 
executioner's axe, separated from her children, and 
treated with revolting indignity. When, in my young 
days, I used to accompany my father to the Conciergerie 
prison, I never passed before the unfortunate Queen's 
cell without feeling deeply moved. When I looked at 
the black and rusty door behind which Marie Antoinette 
had been imprisoned for two months, I hastily walked 
away, seeing in m.y mind's eye the awful tragedy which 
had been partly enacted in the gloomy prison. 

After the death of Louis XVI. the royal captives of 
the Temple had not been forgotten. The hatred of the 
Parisians against the King was wholly political ; it was 
aimed at the King, not at the man. Against Marie 
Antoinette popular hatred was both political and per- 
sonal. The Queen had found implacable enemies, not 
VOL. II. E 



50 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

only among the Revolutionists who wished to overthrow 
the Monarchy, but among her own courtiers, and even in 
the ranks of her own family. None could for give her 
independent mind, her elegant tastes, her l iking for 
amusements forbidden by etiquette. By traduc ing her 
sentiments, by incriminating her acts, her e nemies had 
rendered her odious to all other womem The Revolu- 
tionists knew the Queen to be far more energetic than 
Louis XVI.; they understood that if some resistance was 
to be offered to their designs, such resistance must come 
from Marie Antoinette, and they gave her out as the 
bitterest enemy of liberty. They styled her the ghoul 
of France, and the accomplice of the foreigner. Una- 
nimity in hostile feelings was the cause of unanimity in 
the calumnies wherewith the Queen was assailed. On 
several occasions the name of the captive Queen was 
pronounced in the Convention, and then the violent 
party of which Hebertwas leader asked for the arraign- 
ment of the widow of Capet. 

Public opinion was getting too strong for the Con- 
vention. On August 4 a decree sent her before the 
Revolutionary Tribunal, and on the 14th of the same 
month she was sentenced to death, after a trial which is 
too well known for me to recall the circumstances 
which attended the melancholy affair. I have occasion- 
ally related at length the events of a criminal's career 
which led to the executioner's intervention, but only 
when I might reasonably think that the reader was not 
previously acquainted with them. In Marie Antoinette's 
case, my relation can only dwell upon the time that 



THE QUEEN, 51 

elapsed between her condemnation and execution. 
Charles Henri Sanson did not leave us a complete 
account of the Queen's death ; and the omission, which I 
cannot explain, is very much to be regretted. The 
following relatioii j^ however, I had fro m my father^ who 
had thgn reac hed manhood^ and wh o n^inally a sgigl:g'l:g2y 
grandfather in the discharge of his functions. 

Charles Henri Sanson was present at the Queen's 
trial. No sooner was the verdict given than he tapped 
at the door of Fouquier-Tinville's closet. Fouquier told 
him to come in, and he found himself in the presence of 
Herman, the president of the court, Renaudin, a judge, 
Nicolas, also a judge, and Fabricius Paris, the clerk of the 
court. Fouquie r immed iately enquired whether prepara- 
tions for Xh^ fete (that was the word he used) were com- 
plete. Charles Henri Sanson having responded that his 
duty was to await the decisions of Justice, and not anti- 
cipate them, Fouqukrjupbraided him with his usual vio- 
lence. Fabricius, the clerk, mingled his merry jokes 
with the public prosecutor's invectives. The conversation 
was assuming a disagreeable turn. To put an end to it, 
my grandfather asked for an order to procure a closed 
carriage similar to that in which the King had been I 
taken to the guillotine. This request thoroughly ex- 
asperated Fouquier-Tinville ; he answered that Charles » 
Henri himself deserved to perish on the scaffold for 
daring to make such a suggestion, and that a cart was 
quite good enough for the Austrian. But Renaudin 
observed that before taking any decision it was desirable 
to consult the Committee of Public Safety, or some of its 



52 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



members ; and after some discussion Fouquier acquiesced. 
Nourry, alias Grammont, formerly^n actor of the_Mon- 
tansler Theatre, had just entered. He undertook the 
errand, and on returning said that he had consulted 
Robespierre and CoUot, but that neither would give 
an opinion on the matter, on the plea that Fouquier 
had power to act as he thought fit. It was finally- 
decided that the Queen should be taken to the scaffold 
in a cart. 

It was five o'clock in the morning when my grand- 
father left the Tribunal. All were asleep when he 
entered his house. He made only a short appearance in 
his bedroom, and was walking out on tiptoe, for fear of 
waking his wife, when the latter, who slept lightly, called 
him to her bedside, and, on looking in his face, she at 
once guessed the issue of the Queen's trial. She was so 
deeply affected that Charles Henri had to call his son 
to his assistance. He dared not let any one else see her. 
Her tears were a_crime in the eyes of the man in power, 
and most of his assistants tried to obliterate the dis- 
honour of their profession by the fervency of their 
democratic opinions. 

This occurrence so unmanned Charles Henri Sanson, 
that his son prepared to accompany him. So they went 
together to the Place de la Revolution, to see that the 
scaffold was in good order.; and from thence they re- 
paired to the Conciergerie, where they arrived at ten 
o'clock. The prison was already surrounded by armed 
men. My father and grandfather were joined by citizen 
Eustache Nappier, one of the ushers of the Revolu- 



THE QUEEN. 



53 



tionary Tribunal, who was to be present throughout the 
proceedings. 

They entered the prison, and were taken to the 
Queen's presence. Marie Antoinette was in the * Hall 



ofjthe Dead.' reclining on a seat, her head against the 
wall ; the two gendarmes who watched her were stand- 
ing within a few steps, with Bault, the turnkey, whose 
daughter was standing before Marie Antoinette, weeping 
bitterly. 

When the messengers of death entered, the Queen 
rose and made a step to meet them, but she was stopped 
by Bault's daughter, whom she embraced with much 
tenderness. She wore a white dress : a white hand- 



kerchief covered her shoulders ; and her hair wa s sur- 
mounted by a cap tied with a black ribbon. She was 
pale, but not out of apprehension, for her lips were red 
and her eyes brilliant. 

My grandfather and father took their hats off; many 
others bowed ; Nappier the usher, and a few gendarmes, 
were the only persons who abstained from giving so 
slight a token of deference. Before any one had time 
to speak, the Queen advanced, and in a dry voice she 
said : 

' Gentlemen, I am ready. We can set out.' 

Charles Henri Sanson observed that a few formali- 
ties had yet to be fulfilled. Marie Antoinette showed 
the back of her neck, where the hair had been cut. 

' That will do, I think t ' said she to him. 

At the same time she held out her hands for him to 
bind them. While my father was so occupied, the Abbe 



a 



54 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



■A 



W 









Lothrlnger entered the room and asked her leave to 
accompany her. The abbe, who had taken the oath of 
fidelity to the Republic, had already proffered his services, 
but they had been declined. His repeated request 
visibly displeased the Queen, who however answered : 

* You can come with me if you like.' 
^ The cortege immediately moved forward. The 
gendarmes preceded the queen, by whose side was the 
abbe ; behind came the clerk, the executioners, and more 
gendarmes. , 

On reaching the court, Marie Antoinette saw the 
cart ; she came to a sudden halt, and a strong feeling of 
horror appeared on her features. She, however, mastered 
her emotion, and was helped up by my grandfather 
and his son. The gates were slowly opened, and the 
Queen of France appeared before the people. There was 
an immense clamour of maledictions, a torrent of curses, 
and cries of ' Death ! ' The crowd was so compact that the 
cart could hardly move, and the horse reared and backed. 
There was so terrible a moment of confusion that both 
my grandfather and father rose and placed them- 
selves before Marie Antoinette. At two different points 
men had broken through the rank of the escort, and 
instead of driving them back, or trying to calm popular 
effervescence, the gendarmes joined in their vocifera- 
tions. The son of Nourry-Grammont, who, like his 
father, was an officer in the army, had the cowardice 
to threaten the Queen's face with his clenched fist. The 
Abb6 Lothringer pushed him back, and upbraided him 
for his unworthy conduct. 



THE QUEEN. 



1% 



This scene lasted two or three minutes. Never, myl 
fatherjoften toldjne^ appear morej 

dignifiedjdian ^^didjhen. Grammont, the father, went 
forward with a few horsemen and cleared the way. 
From time to time cries and curses partly subsided.' 
A few cries of ' Death to the A iistrian ! Death to 
Madame Veto ! ' rose from the crowd ; but these ex- 
clamations became rarer and rarer. 

Marie Antoinette sto od erect in the car t ; the Abbe r^t^^ 
Lothringer was speaking to her, but she did not answer, MjtA.sRi 
and did not even seem to hear him. When the Palais 
Egalite was passed, she began to manifest some uneasiness. 
She looked at the numbers of the houses with more than 
commonplace curiosity. The Queen had foreseen thatf 
no priest of her religion would be^allowed to ac company^ ^ 
her ; and a proscribed ecclesiastic, with whom she had 



communicated, had promised to be in a house of the 



Rue St. Honord on the day of the execution, and to 



give h er from a window absolution in extremis. The 
number of the house had been designated to Marie 
Antoinette, and that was what she was looking for. She 
discovered it ; and then, at a sign which she alone under- 
stood, having recognised the priest, she bent her head 
and prayed. After this she breathed more freely, and 
a smile came to her lips. 

On reaching the Place de la Revolution , the cart 
halted precisely ojp posite the large walk of the Tulleries ; 
for a few moments the Queen was plunged in painful 
contemplation ; her colour faded away, her eyelids trem- 
bled, and she was heard to murmur : 



56 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



\ 



* My daught er ! my children ! *_ 
The sight of the scaffold recalled her to herself, and 

she prepared to descend. My grandfather and my 
father supported her. As she placed her foot on the 
ground, Charles Henri Sanson, who was bending towards 
her, said in her ear : 

* Have courage, Madame ! ' 
The Queen looked round, as if surprise d to find 

pity in the heart of the ma n who was about to put 
her to death, and answered : 
' Thank you, sir, thank you.' 

A few yards separated the cart from the guillotine. 
My father offered to continue to support her, but she 
declined, saying : 

'■ No ; I am, thank Heaven, strong enough to walk 
that short distance.* 

She advance d slowly, but with a firm step, and 
mounted the scaffold as majestically as if the steps 
of the guillotine had been those_of_the grand s taircase at 
Versailles. 

Her arrival on the platform produced some confusion. 
The Abbe Lothringer, who had followed her, was going 
on with his useless exhortations. My father thrust him 
aside, wishing to finish the execution without the loss of 
ffliZ iW'^Vi^ second. The assistants took possession of Marie 
jjj^jOJjJ^ I Antoinette. While they were tying her down to the 
'^jAk iweigh-plank, sEe'exclaimed, in aloud voice : 
tiHK\iOy^^ * Farewell^my children; I am going to j oin your 
y^f ^iatheiT^ 
l/jivVU-i< 1 'pj^g plank was replaced in its original position. 



ia>Wvva)1 



THE QUEEN. 57 

and the knife came down upon the neck with a heavy 
thump. 

Some cries of * Vive la Republiqite !' were heard around 
the scaffold, and Grammont ordered Charles Henri ta 
showjhe head to the people. One of the assistants went 
through the horrible formality. The Queen^s_body was. 
placed in a coffin of common wood and burnt in quick- 
lime ^in the cemetery of La Madeleine. Her clothing 
was given to the poor. , 



58 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

THE GIRONDINS. 

After the Queen's trial came that of the inhabitants of 
Armentieres, charged with conspiracy with the enemy, 
with the purpose of betraying the town into their hands. 
Six prisoners were discharged : but Pierre Frangois 
MaHngie, {oxm.^x\y juge-de-paix of Armentieres ; Pellerin 
Guy Jouar, merchant ; Joseph Delattre, merchant ; and 
Paul Francois Clarisse, hatter, were sentenced to 
capital punishment, and executed on the 27th of Ven- 
demiaire. 

On the 1st of Brumaire (October 22) came the turn 
of Louis Armand Pernon, manager of the national pot- 
tery, charged with having corresponded with the rebels 
of Lyons ; and on the 2nd that of Pierre Hippolyte 
Pastourel, a priest. 

On the 5th the Tribunal sent an emigre, Jacques^ 
Andre Frangoi s d'Ouzonville, and his wife, to the guillo- 
tine. Public attention at the time forsook the Place de la 
Revolution, engrossed as it was by a trial of the highest 
importance — that of the Girondins. 

This trial was as loudly asked for by the clubs and the 
Commune as that of the Queen had been ; but the charge 



THE GIRONDINS. 59 

against the deputies, arrested on account of their 
moderate and just republicanism, was difficult to make 
out. Those of the Girondins who had not taken to flight 
had committed no reprehensible act. In this predica- 
ment it was resolved to consider their opinions as being 
criminal, and the accusation was drawn up. Fouquier- 
Tinville received it on the 1 2th of Brumaire, and on the 
1 3th the prisoners were transferred from the Prison des 
Carmes to la Conciergerie, the last ji alting-place on the 
wa y to the _scaffold^ 

The flight of Petion, Barbaroux, Guadet, and a few 
others, had left a gap in the ranks of the twenty- 
arraigned deputies ; to complete the figure consecrated 
by the insurrection of June 2, other deputies were 
chosen among those who had since then been arrested, 
and twenty-one prisoners, who with Gorsas (who had 
been executed some time before) made up the requisite 
number, appeared before the Revolutionary Tribunal. 

These were : 

Jean Pierre Brissot, aged 39, man of letters and 
deputy of Eure-et-Loire. 

Pierre Victorin Vergniaud, aged 35, deputy of la 
Gironde. 

Arnaud Gensonne, aged 35, deputy of la Gironde. 

Claude Romain Loze Duperret, aged 46, deputy of 
Bouches-du-Rhone. 

Jean Louis Carra, aged 50, man of letters and deputy 
of Saone-et-Loire. 

Jean Francois Martin Gardien, aged 39, deputy of 
Indre-et-Loire. 



6o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Charles Eldonore Dufriche Valaze, aged 42, deputy 
of Orne. 

Jean Duprat, aged 38, deputy of Bouches-du-Rh6ne. 

Charles Alexis Bruslard (formerly Marquis de 
Sillery), aged 57, deputy of laSomme. 

Charles Fauchet, aged 49 (formerly a bishop), deputy 
of Calvados. 

Jean Frangois Ducos, aged 28, man of letters, deputy 
of la Gironde. 

Marie David Lasource, aged, 39, deputy of Tarn. 

Benoit Lesterpt-Beauvais, aged 43, deputy of Haute- 
Vienne. 

Gaspard Du Chastel, aged 27, deputy of Deux- 
Sevres. 

Pierre Mainvieille, aged 28, deputy of Bouches-du- 
Rh6ne. 

Jacques Lacase, aged 42, deputy of la Gironde. 

Pierre Lehardy, aged 35, deputy of Morbihan. 

Jacques Boileau, aged 41, deputy of Yonne. 

Charles Louis Antiboul, aged 40, deputy of Van 

Louis Frangois Sebastin Vigie, aged iG, deputy of 
Mayenne-et-Loire. 

On the 3rd of Brumaire they appeared before the 
Tribunal. Fabricius, the clerk of the court, read the 
indictment, in which it was attempted to show that the 
accused had conspired against the unity and indivisi- 
bility of the Republic and the safety of the nation. Most 
of the witnesses heard for the prosecution were those 
who had directed the revolutionary movement of May 
31, and whose hostility to the Girondins was manifest 



THE GIRONDINS. 6r 

and well known. The trial, which lasted several days, 
was a kind of f arce. It is not within my province to 
relate it, and I will therefore pass it over. When the jury 
had delivered a verdict of guilty against all the arraigned 
Girondins, the latter were brought in to receive sen- 
tence. They had^hown indomitable courage during the 
whole trial, _and few among them yielded to despair or 
discouragement. Boileau threw up his hat, exclaiming : 
* I die innocent.' Sillery, who was lame, threw away 
his crutches and said : ' This day is the finest in my life.' 
Boyer Fonfrede embraced Ducos, his brother-in-law, 
saying : * My friend, I led you to this.' Fauchet and 
Duprat were rather cast down ; but Carra retained his 
self-possession ; Lasource addressed a few words to the 
jury, that could not be heard in the tumult then pre^ 
vailing ; as to Vergniaud, the noblest and most eloquent 
of ail, he lost nothing of the admirable serenity he had 
displayed throughout the ordeal ; then all rose simul- 
taneously, crying * Vive la Repuhliqiie ! we are inno- 
cent ! ' A cry of death, however, rose higher than this 
clamour ; a voice said ' I am dying.' The president of 
the Tribunal directed the gendarmes to lead away the 
prisoners. One, however, did not move ; it was Dufriche 
Valaze who had said ' I am dying,' after stabbing 
himself to the heart. 

This painful scene had created the utmost confusion. 
Camille Desmoulins, who was present, ran out of the hall 
in an agony of grief, charging himself with the death of the 
Girondins. The foreman of the jury was as pale as death. 
Fouquier-Tinville, the public prosecutor, alone was calm. 



62 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 






In a cold voice he asked that Valaze's corpse should 
be placed in one of the executioner's carts, to be burned 
'i/nico j with the bodies of his 'accomplices' after execution. 
^ YhjhjL ^^ early as the 8th of Brumaire, that is to say four 
t4^r/lM?<iays before the actual condemnation of the Girondins, 
Fouquier-Tinville had directed the executioner to pro- 
vide for the emergency of an extraordinary execution. 
My grandfather had therefore sought assistants. By a 
singular contrast, which shows the instinctive horror of 
the masses for the punishment which was then so fre- 
quently inflicted, he had the greatest difficulty in recruit- 
ing auxiliaries for the service of the scaffold. Fouquier 
had informed my grandfather that at least twelve assist- 
ants were necessary. Charles Henri, with the greatest 
trouble, found three men ; and as he was going in quest 
of another man, a protege of Hebert presented himself, 
/and proposed to act as executioner's valet. This indi- 
vidual's garrulity and his grimacing and sinister counte- 
nance displeased Charles Henri Sanson, who refused 
to engage him. One of those who were present at the 
interview assured my grandfather that the man was a 
mountebank, who, under the name of Jacot, performed 
on the Boulevard du Temple, and Charles Henri was. 
congratulating himself on having got rid of him, when 
Fouquier-Tinville summoned him to his presence, and,, 
after charging him^ with neglect of duty, ordered him to 
engage Jacot. 

On the following day, lOth Brumaire (October 30), 
my grandfather passed his auxiliaries in review. They 
consisted of ten assistants, properly speaking, and five 



THE GIRONDINS. 63 

cart drivers, with their carts. H^bert's/r^/^^/was present. 
Charles Henri Sanson thought he perceived a red waist-- 
coat under his carmagnol e^ but he paid Httle attention 
to the circumstance. At eight o'clock in the morning' 
he set out for the Conciergerie with my father and six 
assistants ; two more went to the Place de la Revolution, 
and two remained to take care of the carts ; Jacot was 
one of the latter. A great many soldiers already 
surrounded the prison. Two clerks of the Tribunal, 
Nappier and Monet (the same who had attended 
Charlotte Corday to the scaffold), had already arrived, 
and were waiting for the executioner in the porter's 
lodge. They repaired together to the Palais de Justice, 
where they took their final orders; and then they 
prepared to appear before the unfortunate Girondins. 

It had been decided that preparations for the execution 
should take place in the parlour of the prison — a lofty 
dark ha ll, which people were beginning to call the * Hall 
of the Dead,' since it served as an antechamber of the 



scaffold. When my grandfather entered with his men 
and the gendarmes, the convicts were already assembled 
there. They formed several groups ; some were pacing 
the hall ; others formed circles ; all of them spoke with 
much animation, like friends who were about to be sepa- 
rated by a long voyage. Brulard, Sillery, and Bishop 
Fauchet, conversed in a low voice in a dark corner ; 
Mainvieille was writing on his knees. The corpse of Valaze 
had been deposited on three stools before the window. 
At the sight of the sinister cortege, they uttered a 
confused exclamation, and some of them rushed into 



64 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

each other's arms and embraced. Nappier, the clerk, 
called out the names of the convicts, and at each name 
one of the Girondins answered ' Present ! ' and several 
added a few words of irony. 

' Present ! ' said Vergniaud ; ' if our blood can cement 
liberty, we welcome you.' 

* I don't like long speeches ; I am no adept in the 
art of outraging reason and justice,' cried Ducos, sar- 
castically quoting Robespierre's very words. Nappier 
having roughly interrupted him, he added, with a burst 
of laughter : * Well, present, without phrases.' 

Duperret, instead of answering, impeached the town 
of Paris, saying that its representatives were murdering 
the most devoted patriots. Brissot, one of the most dis- 
tinguished Girondins, was gloomy ; Vergniaud spoke to 
him for some time with vehemence, but all that could be 
heard of what he said were the often repeated words of 
republic and liberty. When the nominal appeal was 
terminated, all the convicts, with equal enthusiasm, cried 
* Vive la Republiqtte!' 

The sight of these men, whose last cry was a glorifi- 
cation of the Republic in the name of which they were 
being sent to the guillotine, was awful and impressive. 
Often has my father, when he was giving me the above 
details, repeated that no execution ever moved him 
 more. The toilet began ; during this preliminary prepa- 
ration the Girondins remained serene and self-possessed. 
My grandfather and my father cut their hair ; the assist- 
ants bound their hands. They came forward without 
any affectation or bravado, and continued to converse. 



THE GIRONDINS. 



65 



As Duprat was about to sit down on the stool, Main- 
vieille approached, holding the letter he had been 
writing. He handed it to his companion, together with a 
pen, saying to my father : 

' You will allow us to devote a few moments to our 
family affairs, I hope ? ' 

Duprat then added a few words to the letter, which 
was addressed to a woman whom they both loved. 

Ducos was the last who underwent the toilette, and 
it was my father who cut his hair. Fonfrede, his brother- 
in-law, stood behind him. During the operation a few 
hairs, which were caught between the scissors, were torn 
out. Ducos could not refrain from making a movement, 
and while his hands were being tied he said to my 
father : 

* I hope the edge of your guillotine is sharper than 
your scissors ! ' 

When all were ready, my grandfather gave the 
signal for departure. Some of the gendarmes had 
already descended the stairs which led to the entrance 
of the prison. The convicts pressed around Vergniaud, 
and seemed to wish to confer upon him the honour of 
marching first ; but Vergniaud, pointing to Valaze s 
body, which two assistants were placing on a tressel : 
* He preceded us in death,' said he in a grave voice ; ' he 
must show us the way.' 

All then stood back at his bidding, and the corpse 

was borne away. The Girondins followed. Nappier, 

the clerk of the court, had arranged that they should be 

placed in the carts according to the order of their names 

VOL. II. F 







66 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

in the judgment ; but the confusion which attended the- 
departure prevented the execution of a measure which 
might have deprived some of the Girondins of the suprenie;^ 
con solatio n of confiding their Jast^ thoughts to a personal 
friend. They entered the carts they preferred, and 
found themselves thus distributed : Gensonne, Carra,. 
Duperret, Lasource, and Duchatel in the first cart \. 
Brissot, Vergniaud, Ducos, Boyer-Fonfrede, and Vigie 
in the second ; Gardien, Mainvieille, Duprat, Fauchet, 
Sillery, and Lasource, in the third ; Antiboul, Boileau, 
Lehardy, and Beauvais in the fourth. My grandfather 
and my father were in the first two carts, and an 
assistant in each of the other carts ; each of them held 
the end of the cord which communicated with the wrists 
of the convicts. Contrary to what has been said by 
some historians, there was no convict in the fifth cart, 
which was reserved for the body of Valaze. 

The sky was dark and rainy ; a foggy atmosphere 
covered the town ; nevertheless, an i mmense _ gxLwd_ 
filled the streets. More curiosity than passion was 
displayed by the public. Few were conscious of the 
importance of the sacrifice which was about to be made ; 
but few also seemed to share the violent sentiments 
expressed at the Club des Jacobins and in the Con- 
vention. Silence was generally preserved on the way ; 
but, as usually occurred when illustrio us victim s were 
bei ng led to death, a gang of men a nd women had 
mingled with the cortege, and gave ven t to furious ex- 
clamations. Scarcely had the carts reached the Quai 
de la Conciergerie when my grandfather became aware 
that his new assistant, Jacot, had taken off his cartnag- 



THE GIRONDINS. 67 

nolcy under which he wore a mounteba nk's costum e ; 
the wretch had mounted the horse of the^ cart_entrusted 
to him, and was going through a series of feats of equi- 
tation, which he only interrupted to address to the 
crowd ironical remarks relating to the convicts. Charles 
Henri immediately descended, and endeavoured to 
drive Jacot away ; but t he crowd, and ev en the gen- 
darmes, sided w ith the mountebank, and my grand- 
father was obliged to return to his cart amidst groans 
and hisses. The cries of * Vive la Repitbliqtie!' were 
frequently uttered on the way. Mainvieille and Duprat 
repeated with the crowd : * Vive la Repiiblique ! ' On 
two or three occasions only came forth the cry : * Death 
to traitors ! ' The Girondins heard it without anger ; but 
a stentorian voice, which came from the fourth cart, 
exclaimed : * The Republic ! You shall not have it ! * 
Vergniaud, behind whom was my father, heard the ex- 
clamation, and cried : * Do not say that ; the Republic 
costs us dear enough for us to carry away the hope that 
it shall not be overthrown.' 

Not one showed signs of weakness. Vergniaud was 
grave and collected, and endeavoured to dispel the 
sinister presentiments of Brissot, who seemed to think 
that the Republic could not survive their death. Ducos 
and Boyer-Fonfrede conversed in a low voice ; my father 
saw tears on the cheeks o f the latte r. The convicts of 
the other carts were not less dignified. Twice they 
struck up the Marseillaise. Ducos, who was only 
twenty-seven years old, se emed to become more lively 
and caustic as the fatal moment was dr awing nea r. As 



68 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



the carts reached the Place de la Revolution, he said, 
looking at the guillotine : 

' What a pity it is that the Convention did not decree 
the unity and indivisibility of our persons ! ' 

After being placed in a file before the scaffold, 

/rbetween two rows of gendarmes, the Girondins embraced, 

and were heard encouraging each other to die bravely, 

without fear or reproach, as they had lived. Then they once 

(yurvij more struck up the Marseillaise, and the sacrifice began. 

the first to appear on the platform. He 

the scaffold, and bowed four times to the 

crowd. He suffered from paralysis and walked with" 



\d. VUi! walked around 




^•Cfira.rr. .difficulty. One of the assistants having told him to be 
quick, he answered : 

* Can't you wait a moment } I wait also, and yet I 
^<^ll7- ^^ i^ ^ greater hurry than you are.' 
^^<aAU^'~ As the knife came down, the chorus of the convicts 
^ plflMj^'' became stronger. After Sillery came Fauchet ; Carra, 
'^' "" ' Lesterpt-Beauvais, Duperret, and Lacase followed. 

Charles Henri Sanson was superintending the execu- 

n^^'w^ tion. Fermin, the head assistant, was pulHng the rope. 

' ' My father watched over the removal of the bodies, which 

were thrown, two by two, into baskets prepared behind 

the guillotine. But when six heads had fallen, the 

baskets and the weigh-planks were so saturated that 



e) 



the contact of the blood must have been more horrible 



than death itself to those who were to follow. Charles 

Henri Sanson ordered the two assistants to throw pails 
of water over the plank, and to sponge it after each 
execution. 

The ranks of the convicts were beginning to thin. 



THE GIRONDINS, 69 

Their chants were diminishing in intensity, but not in 
vigour. Boileau, Antiboul, Gardien, Lasource, Brissot, 
one after the other ascended the steps of the scaffold. 
While Lehardy was being bound to the plank, he cried 
three times : * Vive la Reptibliqtie ! ' Duprat was executed 
after him. Before leaving his friends, Ducos embraced 
Fonfrede, his brother-in-law ; in ascending the steps, he 
said to my father : 

' Ah ! would that your guillotine could kill me at the 
same time as my brother ! ' 

He was still speaking when the knife came down 
upon his neck. 

Only si x Gi rondins now remai ne d; but they went 
on singing. Gensonne, Mainvieille, Boyer-Fonfrede, and 
Duchatel were executed. Vergniaud and Vigie were 
still alive. It has been asserted that Vergniaud was 
the last who died. This is an error. It had been 
hoped that some of the Girondins would show some 
symptom of fear, and those who had exhibited the 
greatest fortitude had been reserved for the last. Nappier, „ ^ 
tlie clerk, was about to point to Vigie as the next uJ « < 
victim, when he thought he detected a tremor in his oJUfiYhj)^ 
voice ; he immediately turned to Vergniaud and told him -^trvryui^ 
to come forward. Nappier doubtless thought that Vigie, -^Gu^ni 
being dep rived of the support of his friend, would lose 
courage, ajid j hat the horrib l e hec at omb would thus _ 
finish by an exhibition of fear, Nothing of the kind^^ 
took p lace. When Vergniaud's corpse had joined those 
of h|s friends, Vigie came forward wit h the pride of a ^ 
conqueror. He was still singing while t hey were binding 
him to tKe plank. 








MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The execution lasted forty-three minutes ; that is, a 
little more than two minutes for each convict. 

In the evening of the same day, Charles Henri 
Sanson complained to Fouquier of the extraordinary 
conduct of Hebert's/r^/^^/in the hope of getting rid of 
the ruffian ; he argued that the way to beget sympathy 
for the condemned was to insult prisoners, as Jacot 
had done. Fouquier paid no attention to my grand- 
father's recriminations, and asked him why he did not 
with his own hand pull the rope which communicated 
with the knife. My grandfather replied that unde r the 

for mer regim e _it_ was customary ,Jbx., th e executione r^ 

to carry out himself sentences entailing deca pitation^ but 
that since a machine had been substituted for human 
strength and dexterity, the most important duty^was to 
watch the preparations and the carrying out..of_an__ 
execution ; that .the._slightest neglect could give rise to 
frightful accidents ; and that, as he was personallyure- 
sponsible, it was only natural that he should see himself 
to_the superintendence. 

Fouquier-Tinville appeared satisfied with these rea- 
sons; but in sending my grandfather away, he told him that 
he should keep an eye upon him, and added, with a signi- 
ficant gesture, that if he did not discharge his duties not 
only as an experienced executioner, but as a patriot, he, 
Sanson, might very well change parts, and be executed 
himself 

The result of this conversation was that Jacot was 
maintained as my grandfather's assistant ; and the man's 
minister grimaces were repeated in most important execu- 
itions, to the great satisfaction of the mob. 



71 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

ADAM LUX.— THE DUKE OF ORLEANS. 

F rom the time of the death of the Girondins. execution.^ 
became more and more frequent ; the real Reip^n of Terror 
begao-— ^N ot a day passed without the guillotine being- 
used, and my grandfather and my father had scarcely 
breathing time. Three executions took place on the nth 
of Brumaire, and three more on the 1 2th. On the 1 3th the 
Revolutionary Tribunal sent to the scaffold Qlvinpe de\ 
Gou ges, a woman famous for her talents and courage. She 
had hailed the Revolution with delight ; but pity soon 
invaded her heart, and in a fit of generous boldness she 
wrote to the Convention, to ask leave to defend the 
King. She then attacked the revolutionary party with 
such violence that the papers refused to accept any more 
of her contributions, and she was obliged to use placards 
as a medium of communication with the public. For 
this she was incarcerated for five months, tried, and 
executed. 

On the 14th two convicts appeared on the guillotine. 
One was a woman called Marie Madeleine Contelet. 
She had been found in pos session of a letter in whic h the 
Commune and the Convention were spoken of__con-_ 



? 



72 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

temptuously. Thiswas^^ enough to ensur e a condemna- 
tion to death. The other convict was Adam Lux, sent 
by the town of Mayence to solicit the annexation of his- 
native town to France. Adam Lux was an enthusiastic 
dreamer, who judged men in the simph'city of his heart 
and with the sincerity of faith. He beHeved that uni- 
versal regeneration would succeed to the proclamation 
of the principles of right and justice. Adam Lux was 
plunged in deep and dark despair, and was thinking of 
committing suicide, when he saw Charlotte Corday. He 
had sought in vain for liberty, but the tenderness which 
filled his mystic heart could not remain unquenched; he 
gave himself to the priestess as he had given himself 
to the goddess. Full of faith in this extraordinary post- 
humous love, he only wished to join Charlotte in deaths 
and he lost no opportunity of impeaching and attack- 
ing the Montagne. He was soon arraigned before the Re- 
volutionary Tribunal. Nor was he unworthy of Charlotte 
Corday. After the act of accusation had been read to 
him, he said to Fouquier-Tinville : ' I am a stranger to- 
your laws as well as to your crimes ; if I have deserved 
to perish, it is not among the French that I should 
suffer.' When sentence was passed he exclaimed : '■ At 
last I shall be free ! ' He dressed hi mself with muchi 
care to proceed to the guillotine, as if hoping that 
K/^ Charlotte Corday's spirit was waiting for him over the. 
caffold. His female companion was executed first. 
Hardly was the body removed when Adam Lux appeared 

^TAiXi^^n the platform, and stretched himself out on the plank^ 

gT|i^ ^ exclaiming * At last 1 ' 



ADAM LUX.— THE DUKE OF ORLEANS. 



75 












On the 15th another woman, named Madeleine Kolly^ 
was executed ; on the i6th it was the turn of one of the/ 
most famous initiators of the Revolution, Louis Philippe! 
Joseph d'Orleans. It was in vain that this prince had 
exchanged his title for the significant name of EgaliU^ 
that he had given to the Revolution a far more awful 
guarantee by voting the death of his king and relative ; 
he had not succeeded in obliterating the recollection of 
his birth and immense fortune. Justly hated by the 
Royalists, he had soon embarrassed the Republicans. 
The Girondins would not believe that patriotism was the 
only reason for the democratic conversion of a prince of 
the blood. Ever since the first meeting of the Com 
tion, they had never ceased to treat him as a pretender.. 
On the other hand, the Montague was aware that the 
presence of a Bourbon in its ranks would estrange from 
it all other revolutionary parties. It was therefore re- , 
solved that he should die. Dumouriez's treason was 
seized upon as the best opportunity for the execution of 
this design. Arrested April 7, Egalite was transferred 
to Marseilles on the 12th. He found there his two sons^ 
the Dukes of Montpensier and Beaujolais, who had also 
been arrested. After an incarceration of six months in 
the Fort St. Jean, he was led back to Paris on the 2nd 
of Brumaire, and imprisoned in the Conciergerie. 

The death of this troublesome accomplice was so- w 
evidently decided beforehand that Fouquier-Tinville did i^^^W^ 
not even try to elaborate an indictment, and used that 
which had been drawn up against the Girondins, the 
relentless enemies of Egalite. When the latter heard 







74 



MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 






himself described as a Brissotin, when he heard the 
charge that he had attempted to place the Duke of York 
on the throne of France, he interrupted the reading, 
^nd exclaimed : * But surely this is a joke ! ' When the 
president asked him if he had any answer to make, he 
said coldly * that the charges just uttered against him 
conflicted with each other, and could not possibly be 
urged against him, since it was well known that he had 
•constantly opposed the system and the measures of the 
party he was accused of having favoured.' 

He was defended with much energy by Charles 
Voidel ; but, as I said before, his death had been con- 
sidered indispensable, and the Duke of Orleans's popu- 
larity was not sufficient to make the jury hesitate upon 
a measure which they deemed necessary. The Duke 
heard the sentence without displaying the slightest 
emotion ; and turning towards Antonnelle, the foreman 
of the jury, who had once been one of his close friends, 
he said : 

* Since you were determined to kill me, you should 
have devised more plausible pretexts than you have 
alleged ; for you will never persuade any one that I am 
guilty of the crime for which you put me to death ; 
and you less than anybody else, Antonnelle, for you 
know me well. Since my fate is decided, I req u est you 
not to make me wait until to-morrow, and to order mv 



immediate execution.' 

General Coustard, his aide-de-camp, also a member of 
the Convention, was sentenced to death with him. The 
Tribunal having granted the Duke's request, Charles 



I 



ADAM LUX.— THE DUKE OF ORLEANS. 75 

TIenri Sanson was sent for ; and to him the clerk of the 
Tribunal handed an order of immediate execution, which 
included two other prisoners condemned on the preced- 
ing day : Jacques Nicolas de Laroque, ex-sub -delegate 
of Mortagne, and Pierre Gondier, stockbroker. 

It was half-past three o'clock when my grandfather 
received this order. As he was about to start with the 
prisoners, he was told to wait, and a fifth victim was 
handed over to him. This was a workman named 
Antoine Brousse. 

The Duke of Orleans was pacing the prison parlour 
when the executioner appeared. He was slightly pale, 
but otherwise showed no emotion. My grandfather 
took off his hat, as he always did ; but the Duke paid 
no attention to him. On being asked, however, whether 
he would allow his hair to be cut, he sat down without 
making any remark. At that moment the four other 
victims were brought in. M. de Laroque entered first ; 
he was a fine 'old man, and his face was of noble 
cast. As one of the assistants was offering to cut his 
hair, he took off the wig which covered his bald h ead, 
sayin g : * This renders your formality useless.' The 
Duke of Orleans, who until then had been sitting with 
his back turned, having risen, M. de Laroque recog- 
nised him, and strong indignation appeared on the old 
Tnan's face as he exclaimed : 

'■ I am no longer sorry to leave life since he who has 
betrayed my country meets with condign punishment ; 
but, sir, I confess I am much humiliated at having to die 
on the same scaffold as you.' 



76 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

The Duke did not answer, and turned away. 

It was four o'clock in the r.fternoon when the 
cortege left the Conciergerie. The prince's sang-froid did 
not forsake him ; but his courage essentially differed 
from that displayed by the Girondins and so many other 
victims ; his countenance expressed indifference and 
disgust. The leader of the escort stopped before the 
Egalite palace, on the front of which were written the 
words ' national property.' The prince understood why 
the halt had been made. He looked for a moment at 
the abode of his ancestors, and then turned away 
scornfully. 

M. de Laroque was the first whose head fell. He 
bade farewell to all his companions, except to the Duke 
of Orleans. Gondier came next, then Coustard, and 
lastly Brousse. 

The prince witnessed these executions without 
emotion. He appeared in his turn on the platform^ 
shrugged his shoulders, and looked with a proud and 
haughty air at the people who were hissing him. After 
taking off his coat, the assistants wished to divest him 
of his boots, but he resisted, and advanced towards the 
plank, saying : * You are losing time ; you can take 
them off at greater leisure when I am dead.' ^ 

* Forty years later, Louis Philippe, son of Egalite, was proclaimed 
King of the French. 



n 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

MADAME ROLAND AND BAILLY. 



Six executions took place on the 17th of Brumaire — 
those of Rideau, mason; Jean Clain, upholsterer; Julien 
Cailleau, cooper ; Jean Teyniere, shoemaker ; Florent 
Ollivier, labourer ; and Thomas Herry, labourer — all 
municipal councillors of Pont-de-Ce, convicted of con- 
spiracy with the rebels of La Vendee. 

These unfortunate men were soon to be followed by 
another illustrious victim. Madame Roland was arrested 
on May 31, and she appeared before the Revolutionary 
Tribunal on the i8th of Brumaire. Madame Roland had 
been the soul of the Gironde ; the elevation of her intel- 
lect, the grace of her wit, the superiority of her views 
liad given her serious influence, not only over her 
husband, but over the illustrious men who congregated 
in her drawing-room. This intervention of__a woman in 
politics h ad e xcitgd^much anger, both in the press and 
in the Convention; Madame Roland's caustic verve^Yitx 
just contempt for ambitious mediocrities, had swelled 
the. .ranks of her enemies. It was thus that, after the 
death of her friends, the Girondins, she was violently 
assailed, and finally arrested and arraigned. The im- 



:^' 






78 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

peachment was mainly based on her connection with 
the Girondins. Madame Roland was resigned to her 
fate, but she could not, without Indignation, listen to the 
insults that were cast upon the memory of her friends^, 
and she attempted to defend them : 

* In what time, and among what people do we live ! ' 
she exclaimed. * It Is not my business to speak of the 
men you have proscribed, but I never believed that they 
had evil Intentions, for they gave to this country many 
proofs of their patriotism, integrity, and devotion. If 
they were mistaken, their error was virtuous ; they may 
have been misled, but they Incurred no dishonour. If It 
was a crime to wish for their safety, I declare In the face 
of the world that I am a criminal, and that I joyfully 
share with them the honour of being persecuted by their 
enemies. I have. Indeed, known well the generous men 
who were accused of having conspired against their 
country ; they were firm but humane Republicans ; they 
thought that good laws only could make the Republic 
popular with those who had no confidence in democratic 
institutions.' 

The president of the Tribunal interrupted her, sayings 
that she could not be allowed to praise traitors who had 
been righteously punished. Madame Roland turned to- 
wards the audience and protested against these words ;, 
but insulting clamours were the only response to this 
appeal, and henceforth Madame Roland was disdain-- 
fully silent. She was condemned to death. When she 
heard the sentence, she said, addressing the Tribunal, In 
a calm and sweet voice : 



MADAME ROLAND. 79, 

' You judge me worthy of sharing the fate of the 
great men you have murdered : I will try to show on the 
scaffold the fortitude they displayed.' 

Like the Duke of Orleans, Madame Roland was 
executed immediately after her trial. With her was 
Simon Frangois Lamarche, ex-manager of the manufac- 
tory of assignats. She had very fine black hair, a part 
of which had to be cut, at which she expressed some 
concern. My grandfather tried to make her understand, ' / j^ v^^ 
with all kinds of circumlocution, that, if he allowed her^'^ ^^^ \ 
to retain her hair, he would expose her to the most & 1^^^^^ 
fearful torture. She seemed touched by his arguments,. (^ 
and paraphrasing a celebrated expression of Moliere's,. 
she said, smiling : * Strange that humanity should take 
refuge in such an unlikely person as you ! ' As her 
black hair was falling, she rose with much vivacity and /u/uuJb 
exclaimed : * At least leave me enough for you to hold ^ UAJ- c 
up my head a nd_§liow it to the people, if they wish to^ ^'*^^^^^^^ 
see itll. 

Lamarche, who was about to die in her company,, 
was far from having her self-possession. M^^^i^^^SL. 
Roland's last act was one of profound abnegation and 
charity ^j he forgot her o wn fate only to think _qfher_cqm^ 
pa nion's sufferings. She neyer_ceased_to_jxm5Q^^ 
encourage him. She affected gaiety which could not be 
in a mother's and a wife's heart, but which she hoped 
might lessen the horror and fear wherc Ayith Lamarf^hf^ 
was filled. Neither the Queen nor the Girondins had 
given rise to such popular fury as Madame Roland. 

She hea rd taunts and invectives with a quiet smile. As 



^o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

to Lamarche, the sight of the guillotine deprived him 
of the small amount of courage inspired by Madame 
Roland's words ; his face turned livid, and an assistant 
was obliged to help him up. Madame Roland looked 
at him with compassion, and said to him : 

* I can only spare you the sight of blood ; go first, 
poor man ! ' 

Since the death of the Girondins the public pro se- 
cutor fixed the rank and file of execution^ Madame 
Roland, by reason of her sex, had been granted the privi- 
lege of dying first. When she told my grandfather that 
she abandoned to Lamarche the favour of being struck 
first, he answered that it was impossible ; that he had 
•different orders. 

' No, no,' replied Madame Roland ; ' I am sure you 
were not ordered to refuse a woman's last request,' 

Charles Henri Sanson had not the courage to per- 
sist Lamarche was guillotined, and Madame Roland 
saw his head fall without a shudder. She then advanced 
and gave herself up to my grandfather's assistants. 

Well-known victims continued to appear on the 
scaffold. The 2 1st of Brumaire saw the death of 
another founder of the Republic — Bailly. Th^ circum- _ 
stances which preceded and attended his execution were 
so horrible that some historians, hostile to th e Revolu-_ 
tion, have grossly exaggerated the facts, while Repub- 
lican historians have endeavoured to attenuate them. 
The following account of Bailly's death is, I make bold 
to say, the most accurate that has hitherto been written : 

Jean Sylvain Bailly was born in Paris on September 



B A ILLY. 8 1 

15,1731. He was the son of Jacques B ailly, keepe r of 
the King's paintings, and his ancestors were distinguished 
artists. _ His first preferences were for Hterature, but he 
forsook letters for science, and became one of the most 
eminent astronomers of the time. Bailly was elected a 
■deputy for Paris in 1789, and the National Assembly 
selected him as president. On July 16, 1789, he was 
appointed mayor of Paris ; and his popularity was so 
.great that he accepted this p erilous post with confidence ; 
but he was not long in discovering his mistake. Being 
sincerely constitutional, he assumed the responsibility 
of the ter rible butchery, of which the scene was the 
Ch amp de la Federation. It is now pretty certain 
that, although he held himself responsible, he had 
no hand in this sanguinary affair ; but there was then 
every reason to think otherwise, and he was on all 
sides devoted to popular revenge. He resigned his 
office, gave up public affairs, and retired in the neigh- 
iDourhood of Nantes. But in that town, as well as in 
Paris, he was regarded as a traitor ; and as his position 
was becoming more perilous every day, he wrote to a 
friend, asking for a place of shelter. His friend pre- 
pared one for him in the neighbourhood of Melun. 
Bailly left Brittany, but fell into the hands of a detach- 
ment of the revolutionary army, and was taken to Paris. 
He appeared before the dreaded Tribunal on the 19th of 
Brumaire. T he massacre of the Champ de Mars w as 
not the only charge brought against Bailly ; he was also 
accused of having excited the conquerors of La Bastille 
against each other, and of having favoured the King's 
VOL. II. G 




82 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

escape at Varennes. The absurdi ty of this conjecture 
was glaring. A considerable number of witnesses were 
heard ; all went against Bailly, and the obvious result 
was a verdict of guilty, and Bailly was sentenced to 
death. 

I have already stated that the executioner used to call 
every day on the public prosecutor to take his orders. 
On the 20th of Brumaire he was told by a clerk of the 
court that no execution was to take place on that day,, 
and he was dismissed without being apprised of the 
special preparations of the morrow for poor Bailly's. 
execution. It was only at nine o'clock on the morning^ 
of the 2 1st that Charles Henri was order ed to transfer. 
the guillotine to the Champ de Mars. He lost some 
time in calling together his assistants, so that it was 
past ten when he proceeded to the Place de la Revolu- 
tion. FouquieijTinville had sele cted a spot between 
the * Altar of the Count ry ' and th e Gros-Caillou for the 
erection of the scaffold — the yeiT p lace occupied by the 
tr oops wh en they firedT upon. the j^e ople. On my father 
devolved the task of removing the_ instru ment of death 
from its usual quarters. My grandfather gave him his in- 
structions and went to the Conciergerie, where he arrived 
at half-past eleven o'clock. As he entered the prison 
he met Hebert, who bowed to him as he passed. Bailly 
was immediately brought forward. I can assert that 
^^ the people did not take the initiative in the revolting 
treatment he met with before execution. T he turnkeys 
ofthe Conciergerie, who o ften showed wanton bru tality 
in their dealings with prisoners, treated Bailly with more 



BAILLY. 



83 



than usual violence, and this made my father think that 
they were acting under orders. As Bailly was bending 
forward one of the men pushed him violently towards 
another turnkey, who in his turn hustled him into the 
hands of another, and so on, until the unfortunate man 
was bruised and out of breath. Bault; the head gaoler, 
and Nappier, the clerk of the Tribunal, were present 
and looked on. Charles Henri having asked Bault 
why he did not interfere, the latter replied, shrugging 
his shoulders : 

' What can I do .? ' 

Nappier laughed and nodded approval. My grand 
father then thought of the individual he had met shortly 
before, and supposed that Hebert had something to do 
with what was going on. He was not mistaken, for 
Bault confessed to him afterwards that the deputy 
procureiLv of the Commune had excited his subordinates 
against Bailly. 

Seeing that the unfortunate man was helpless, Charles 
Henri told his assistants to bind his hands. The con- 
duct of the turnkeys had in no way disturbed the 
equanimity of the illustrious savant. His firmness had 
peculiar good nature about it. He answered the dis- 
graceful jokes of the gaolers merely by the words : 

' You are hurting me.' 

When the executioner's assistants tore him away 
from his tormenters, he smiled and said : 

* I am rather old for that kind of game.' 

When he was pinioned, my grandfather advised him 
to allow his assistants to throw his coat over his 



i 



m£4 

-hrr-Hc 




8+ MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

shoulders, as the weather was chilly. ' Are you afraid 
' that I should catch a cold ? ' enquired Bailly. 

In his * History of the Revolution,' M, Thiers asserts 
I that Bailly was led to execution on foot : this_assertionjs^ 

^\\aij4 inaccura te. The late mayor of Paris enjoyed the pri- 
vilege of all persons condemned to die ; he was taken 
io the scaffold in a cart. Behind the cart a red^bgj^^as^ 
attached, which, according to the tenour of the_sentence^__ 
was to be burnt before the convict by the exe cutioner. 

When the cart appeared on the quay a storm of 
hisses and groans greeted the prisoner, and my grand- 
father perceived that the mob was chiefly composed o£ _ 
the wo rst of the habituh of the Place de la Revolution. 
Bailly was seated ; he was conversing with my grand- 
father with extraordinary tranquility. He spoke of every- 
thing, excepFof himself! He questioned Charles Henri 
concerning the last moments of Custine, Charlotte 
Corday, and the Queen ; shortly after he asked him what 
his salary was. When the cart reached the Champs 
Elysees an assistant came in great haste to speak to my 
grandfather — the carpenters had forgotten some of the 
beams which formed the floor of the scaffold. Charles 
Plenri was obliged to return to the Place de la Revolu- 
tion, and to place these beams in the convict's cart. 
The halt was not without peril ; Bailly stepped out of 
the cart, and twice the crowd attempted to capture him. 
At length the cortege moved on again, but the pieces of 
wood which were now in the cart caused great incon- 
venience to poor Bailly. My grandfather asked him if 
he would rather walk, and he having accepted they 

''^"^ hwJidiHAfK Mclk^/mdf dlM^f^; 



BAILLY. 8s 

proceeded behind the cart. When, however, the mob saw 
Bailly again within reach there was another tremendous 
rush to get at him, and a lad, making his way through 
the lines, snatched Bailly's coat off h is shoulders. The t7 
onslaught was so sudden that Bailly fell on his face. 
The coat was tor n_jnto_ j.jthousand[_pieces, and another f^AjLu^i 
attempt was made to capture the convict, who was only ^^^ 
surrounded by the executioner and his assistants. ■'^^^^' 
Bailly, however, was saved from the worst of deaths by ^^A^ai^ c 
the intervention of the gendarmes. 5wi^ 

My ^grandfather hastened to get him ap;ain into the -*-^*^ 
cart, but the crowd was raised to frenzy, and a hailstorm -^^ ^ 
of projectiles were hurled at the convict's head. Charles 
Henri advised Bailly to bend down and shelter himself 
behind the beams ; but hardly had his head disappeared 
than the crowd became more violent. Bailly rose to his 
feet, saying to my grandfather : 

' I think you are mistaken ; one should always make 
head against a storm.' And as Charles Henri was ex- 
pressing his vexation, he added : * It would be a pity if I 
could not die with courage during a quarter of an hour, 
after learning how to live with honour during fifty-seven 
years.' 

It was half-past one when the cart reached the 
Champ de Mars. The scaffold was surrounded by three 
or four thousand men. Charles Henri, seeing the feeble- 
ness of his own escort, began to entertain serious fears. 
He understood that the convict was a t the mercy of the 
howling niob. a nd hurried towards the scaffold, hoping 
to conclude the execution before the mob had time to 




lA i aWfiffi^^^^ ^gj^hEMBlRS^F^ THE SANSONS. 



a\^^ Jl/^ake a raid upon Be 
\ \h Mm'*^^ l3.rge, public indignation ran high against the execu- 



M^ yl/feake a raid upon Bailly. When, however, this was seen 



ij^ y(>' l» tioner, and Charles Henri was surrounded by a gang of 
^\pi\fy'' thirty individuals, one of whom said to him that the 
>w^ ground which had drunk the blood of martyrs could not 
^ be stained by the blood of a rascal — that Bailly could 

not be executed in the Champ de Mars. My grand- 
father answered that he was bound to obey superior 
/ KfjcvC/v. orders. * Orders ! ' exclaimed one of the men ; ^ only tjie 
j^ywoV people have the right to give you orders!' Charles 
Henri having called an officer of gendarmes to ask his 
advice, a third individual exclaimed : * You can proclaim 
martial law if you like ; you have the red flag and 
Bailly within reach ; as for us, we will erect the guillotine 
in its proper place.' 

Loud applause followed this sally, and a scene of 
indescribable confusion ensued. The gendarmes h^d 
dispersed ; some helped the people in removing the 
guillotine. My grandfather was separated from the un- 
fortunate Bailly, and he had the greatest trouble to find 
him again. It was then that really commenced the 
torture of the poor old man. By the mud which soiled 
his shirt and face, and by a wound on his forehead, it 
was easy to infer that he had been struck by these 
frenzied savages. Men and women were equally 
ferocious — some raised their clenched fists over an un- 
fortunate man whose hands were bound ; others tried to 
strike him with sticks over their neighbours' heads. 
Bailly's face was still calm, but he was very pale ; as 
soon as he recognised Charles Henri Sanson he called 






BAILLY. 87 

lilm to his help — p oor Bailly's only friend was his 
executioner. As my grandfather joined him, he said : 
* Ah ! I hoped all would be over long ago.' 

One of the assistants was still by the prisoner's side ; 
the other assistant had disappeared. Two generous 
citizens, Beaulieu, and a gendarme named Lebidois, came 
to my grandfather's assistance. Beaulieu harangued the 
mob, and to a certain degree pacified it. Perceiving that it 
was dangerous to remain in the same place, and wishing 
to give some satisfaction to the crowd, he suggested that 
Bailly should select himself the spot where the scaffold 
•was to be erected. This suggestion was received with 
•enthusiasm, and Bailly was forthwith led away. Beau- 
lieu held one of his arms, Charles Henri Sanson held 
the other, and the gendarme and the remaining assistants 
closely followed them. This event has given rise to the 
invention which represents Bailly being led round the t I 
Champ de Mars carrying the boards of the guillotine. Qv^j^js^, 

Bailly was taken to the extremity of the Champ de 
Mars, near the river side, where the scaffold was at last 
erected. A drizzling rain was falling ; Bailly's only 
garment was his shirt, which was torn, and barely 
covered his shoulders. The unfortunate man's teeth 
chattered with cold. It was then that one of those who 
pressed around him having said, ' You tremble, Bailly ! ' 
he made the famous reply : 

' My friend, it is because I feel cold.' 

So many tortures had not impaired his courage, but 
liis strength at length failed him, his head fell back, and 
he almost fainted in the executioner's arms, murmuring : 



88 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



t(\^ * Water! water!' 



rew % 



jy A man — a monster I should say — actually th 

liquid mud in his face. This outrage roused the indig- 
nation of a few, and there rose from the multitude a cry 
of reprobation. One of the spectators ran to the scaffold 
and brought back a bottle in which there was a small 
quantity of wine, which he poured into Bailly's mouth. 
The old man recovered, and with his beautiful smile 
said, * Thank you ! Preparations for the execution 
were now completed, and Bailly was assisted up the 
l^(^£ steps of the scaffold. ' Be quick, sir ; finish me off 
XM without delay,' said he to my grandfather. But a 
^jm formality had yet to be attended to : the sentence said 
l/IHA ^ that the red flag was to be burnt by the executioner 
' lf\£tOv(M before the late mayor of Paris. The flag was so wet 
(;^^AW(N i-jja^i- much time passed before it could be ignited. 

mv^fi. j rj.-^^ story which shows the executioner burning the 
llluflag under Bailly's nose, and the victim's clothes catch- 
ing fire, deserves no credence whatever. 

These preliminaries tried Bailly's power of resistance,, 
and he was about to faint a second time when my 
grandfather hurriedly pushed him towards the weigh- 
plank. While he was strapping him, he kept on en- 
couraging him. Charles Henri then rushed to the rope,, 
and Bailly was heaving a deep sigh of relief when the 
knife came down and severed his head. 

On the 24th Brumaire another man who, like Bailly, 
had taken a brilliant part in the first movements of the 
Revolution, Louis Pierre Manuel, passed away from this, 
life. Unlike Bailly, however, he was anything but 




BAILLY. 89 

resigned to his fate ; h e struggled with the executioner's^ 
assistants, and uttere d piercing shrieks, which only the 
fall of the knife inter rupt ed. General Brunet, com- 
mander-in-chief of the Army of Italy, was executed on 
the same day. 

The task I had to fulfil in the relation of the dramas, 
of this bloody epoch ends here. My grandfather's diary 
now begins. 



•90 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



I 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 

Brumaire 26. — Executed to-day, Citizen De Cussy, of 
Caen, who had taken part in the conspiracy of the 
federalist deputies, and with him Gilbert de Voisin, late 
president of the ex-parliament, who, having emigrated, 
was imprudent enough to return to Paris. During the 
toilet somebody said aloud that if Cussy, who was an 
adept in coining gold and silver moneys, was about to 
be guillotined, it was a certain sign that the Republic 
wanted no other money than paper. After these two 
came Houchard, formerly general of the Army of the 
North, who, like an old soldier, did not tremble. 

Brumaire 21. — Forgers still give us plenty of work. 
To-day I led two of them to the Place de la Revolution. 
Forgery is a misfortune which endangers the lives of 
many innocent persons. Forgers are so clever that it is 
difficult to distinguish bad from good paper, and many 
people who have been deceived cannot resist the tempta- 
tion of inflicting upon others the loss they have sus- 
tained. This evening I met in the Rue de la Tixeran- 
•derle a gang of women who were going to the Commune 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 91 

: — they wore the red cap ; a large crowd followed them, 
giving cheers which were much like groans. I followed 
the example, and walked behind the women, for I 
wanted to know what they intended to complain of. 
Having met Citizen Nicolas Lelievre, he took me into 
the H6tel-de-Ville. The women also entered, but neither 
their costume nor their petition were to the taste of 
Citizen Chaumette, who spoke to them very sensibly, 
and sent them back to their homes. 

Briimaire 28. — This morning we went to the Con- 
ciergerie. As I was waiting in the prison parlour, two 
citizens, who were about to be interrogated, passed 
through the room ; one of these, who I was told was 
Citizen Boisguyon, a soldier, approached me, and with 
great demonstrations of politeness, he said to me : 

' Is it to the citizen executioner I have the honour of 
speaking } Is not your scaffold like a ball-room, citizen, 
and does not the knife, like the violins, begin operation^ 
in such a way as not to leave time for two words ? ' 

I gave an affirmative answer. 

Then turning towards his companion he said to him : 
^ You see, Dupre, that I was right, and that you acted 
your part very badly. We must ask Fouquier-Tinville 
to allow the citizen executioner to come and superintend 
our rehearsals.' 

The gendarmes led them away, but I heard them 
laughing. The speaker alluded to a parody of capital 
punishment which had become the chief amusement of 
the prisoners. 



92 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Executed on this day a late deputy of the Con- 
stituante, Nicolas Remi Lesueur, of Saint Menehould, 
and an old soldier who had recruited for the enemy.V 

Brumaire 29. — Two convicts, Distar de Bellecour, 
officer, and Charles Duparc, late employe at the Tuileries. 
Nothing particularly interesting. 

The ' Section de I'Unite ' to-day, Brumaire 30, took 
away the remnants of the superstition of the Abbey of St. 
Germain des Pres to the Convention. I saw the proces- 
sion. At the head of it marched a party of soldiers, 
then came men wearing sacerdotal vestments over their 
clothes, and between two files were women and girls, 
dressed in white with tricolour sashes ; lastly, I saw 
hand-barrows wherein were placed vases, pyxes, candle- 
sticks, gold and silver plates, and a box of relics, studded 
with precious stones. The procession was followed by 
a band which played the tune of ' Malbrouk ' {sic)^ 
This booty, it is said, is worth two millions. 

The Tribunal has given us a holiday ; such occasions. 
are rare. 

Frimaire I. — We went to take away poor Citizen 
Boisguyon, who the other day had made fun of the 
guillotine. When he was brought to me he said : 

*■ You are in earnest to-day ; you will be astonished 
to see how well I can play my part.' 

With him were Girey-Dupre, Brissot's accomplice ; 
he had had his hair cut before being tried, and had 
appeared before the Tribunal in proper toilet for the- 

* Francois Prix, alias Saint-Prix. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 93 

scaffold He said, turning round several times before 
me : ' I hope I am all right.' He was very cheerful. A 
forger of assignats, Colombier, was also to die. They 
all three took place in the same cart. The forger was 
in consternation ; he tried to prove to Citizen Boisguyon 
that he was not guilty. The latter attempted to console 
him, and said : 

' If my dying twice, instead of once, could save you. 
I would willingly submit to the experiment, for death is 
of very little consequence to me ; but since this is im- 
possible, keep your reasons for the Lord, in whose 
presence we shall be two hours hence.' 

As we were crossing the Rue St. Honore, two women 
appeared at a window of Duplay's house, where Citizen 
Robespierre lives. Girey-Dupre, who was showing the 
house to Boisguyon, cried at the top of his voice : 

' Down with Cromwell ! down with the dictator ! 
■down with the tyrant ! ' 

Juglet, the officer of gendarmes, tried to silence him, 
but in vain. 

Colombier was executed first, Boisguyon came next. 
He was quiet to the last. When Girey was on the plat- 
form he wanted to address the people, but we had orders 
to prevent him, and we took hold of him. He cried 
several times * Vive la Repiblique ! ' 

Frimaire 4. — We executed Antoine Colnelle de 
Tontel, late lieutenant-colonel, and Clement Laverdy, 
formerly superintendent of finances, convicted of having 
contributed to famine by throwing corn into a pond — 
nasty day's work. The first-mentioned convict was 



94 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

seventy-two years old, and the other seventy. Both; 
died with courage. 

Frimaire 6. — Yesterday the Tribunal tried the in- 
dividuals accused of having given false evidence ; two of 
the accused were acquitted ; the third, Carterau Desor- 
meaux, was condemned to death and executed to-day. 

Frimaire J. — Bread is scarce in town ; one must wait 
for hours before the bakers' shops before one can get 
some. The women crowd before the shops in the 
evening, and sometimes wait all night. This sight 
should be very distressing, but our compatriots turn 
everything into fun. This evening over five hundred 
persons were waiting before the baker in our street ; 
although the weather was very chilly, they were singing 
and laughing. Unfortunately this gaiety is frequently 
attended with disorder and misconduct, and there are 
husbands who complain. To-day the Tribunal sent 
to death Jacques Etienne Marchand, lieutenant of 
gendarmes ; General Nicolas Pollier-Lamarliere ; and 
Etienne Alexis Jacques Anisson, formerly director of the 
national press. 

Frimaire 9. — Five heads fell to-day : two were those 
of celebrated men, Barnave, and Duport du Tertre, who 
had been minister of justice. It is said that Citizen 
Danton tried to save Barnave, but with the new law the 
denunciation of a child is enough to forfeit a man's life, 
and no earthly power could save him. Yesterday I saw 
Citizen P^ouquier as he was entering court. The execu- 
tion was appointed for to-day, but the sitting ended late, 
and the weather was so bad that it had to be put off to. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 95- 

the next day. At eleven o'clock, Barnave, Duport^ 
Citizen Benoit-Grandel — sentenced for writing * Vive le 
Roi /' on an assignat — Citizen Vervitch and his sister, were 
brought in to be cropped. Barnave and Du Tertre were 
very brave and quiet. The former came up to me, held 
out his hands, and said : 

' Bind these hands, which were the first to sign the 
declaration of the rights of man ! ' 

When he was ready, and while Citizeness Vervitch,. 
who was in tears, was being bound, he went up to 
Duport and spoke to him with animation. Two carts, 
had been provided : the late deputies entered one, with 
me ; the three other convicts occupied the other cart, 
with Henri.^ On the way Barnave and Du Tertre went 
on conversing ; they spoke of the Republic, and pre- 
tended that its forthcoming ruin would kill liberty 
altogether. Many cries rose around the carts : one maa 
said to Barnave, in a tone of mockery : 

* So young, so eloquent, so brave ! what a pity ! ' 

And Barnave answered very proudly : ' You are rights 
my friend 1 ' 

Citizeness Vervitch was executed first ; she was 
carried to the platform half dead with fear. Her brother 
followed her, then came Benoit-Grandel, Duport, Du 
Tertre, and Barnave. The latter looked at the guillotine 
and exclaimed : 

' And this is my reward for the good I have done tO' 
my country ! ' 

* The narrator's son. 



^6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Frimaire lo. — This morning I had to take two cart- 
drivers from the Conciergerie to the Place de la Revolu- 
tion. I had not, as yesterday, to deal with great 
citizens, but the quantity made up for quality, for there 
were five in one cart and four in the other — nine in all. 
In this number I saw a mother and a son. We had to 
use violence to separate them. When the mother saw 
her child's hair falling, her shrieks became so heartrend- 
ing that we could hardly bear to hear them. She spoke 
to us, saying that the Republic should be content with 
her head, and that the young man should be reprieved. 
It was too much for me. Henri took charge of the first 
cart, and I went in the other cart, but on the way, 
•despite the noise, I could hear the woman groaning 
.and weeping. The convicts who were in my cart turned 
away, not to see her. The women in the crowd wept, 
and many loudly expressed their pity. On the Place, 
and although she was very faint, she burst out again. 
The son kept on saying that he was glad to die with his 
mother. She suffered first, and on the platform she told 
me : * I am sure he is to be reprieved.' 

I think she had an idea that her son had been 
brought with her merely to frighten her, but that he was 
not to be executed. I thought it was of no use to con- 
tradict her. 

Frimaire II. — Executed Jean Vincenot, innkeeper; 
Pierre Nicolas Aubry, schoolmaster ; and Sebastian 
Mauduit, wine merchant. 

The prettiest woman in Paris came forward to act as 
our new divinity — Reason. I read in a paper, yester- 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 97 

day, that the goddess is Hkely to be Hke a general with- 
out soldiers. 

Frimaire 12. — Two convicts this morning: Barthe- 
lemy Soudre, bootmaker, and Guillaume Jean Flament 
They were much insulted and laughed at. 

Frimaire 13. — Executed Antoine Pierre Leon Du- 
fresne, doctor, for conspiring against the Republic, and 
Etienne Pierre Garneau for the same crime. 

To-day a decree of the Commune has been made 
k:nown, which enumerates the requisite qualifications for 
a certificate of civism. To obtain such a certificate is 
now more difificult than to enter Paradise. One must 
show that one has been a member of the National 
Guard since 1790, produce receipts of patriotic contribu- 
tions from 1 79 1 to 1792 ; one must have held only one 
situation for the last two years, &c., &c. Citizen 
Chaumette is more exacting than St. Peter. 

Frimaire 1 5. — Another deputy has been sent to the 
guillotine — Kersaint, formerly of the navy. He died 
bravely, as he had lived. Prayed on the way. A 
rebel priest, Baptiste Guerin, was executed with him. 

Frimaire 16. — To-day, as I was going to the Con- 
ciergerie to take Jacques Auguste Rassay, Bernard 
d'Escourt, and Charlotte Felicite Lappe, the citizen 
prosecutor asked me to wait. Riviere, the turnkey, told 
me that they had just arrested Citizen Rabaut Saint 
Etienne, and his brother Rabaut Pommier, and that 
Fouquier had immediately ordered the first, who was 
outlawed, to be identified. The two Rabauts were con- 
cealed in the Rue Poissonniere, at a citizen's employed 
vol.. II. H 



98 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

in the offices of the Committee of PubHc Safety. This 
citizen had caused to be constructed in his room a wall 
which so entirely concealed the apartment in which the 
two brothers were concealed, that it was next to im- 
possible to find them. But he was foolish enough to 
employ an upholsterer who was working in the offices 
of the Committee. When he heard Billaud, Amar, and 
Vouland, who spoke of nothing but death and massacre, 
the upholsterer became frightened ; he thought his life 
was in jeopardy, and he revealed the secret to Amar, 
who immediately directed the two brothers to be 
arrested. Half-an-hour after, the gendarmes returned 
with Rabaut Saint Etienne and Tirasse. Rabaut was 
handed over to me without more ado. He died with 
the greatest pluck. 

Frimaire 17. — Madame Dubarry was sentenced to 
death last night, and executed this morning. We 
arrived at the hall of justice punctually at nine, but we 
had to wait, as the convict was with Citizen Denizot, 
judge, and Citizen Royer, who were taking down her 
confession. At ten o'clock Citizens Vandenyver, who 
were three in number — the father and the two sons — all 
accomplices of Madame Dubarry, and Citizen Bonnardot 
and Joseph Bruniot, forgers, were brought in. While 
the above named were being ' arranged ' ^ Madame 
Dubarry came in ; her legs could hardly carry her. 
It was some twenty years since I had seen her, and I 

• By * arranged ' the executioner means that his victims were being, 
made ready for the scaffold. The expression is too characteristic not to 
be translated literally.— N. Ed. 




COMTESSK UUBAKRY AND HER NEGRO PAGE LAMORE.— PAINTED BY VAN LOO. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 99 

could hardly have known her. Her features had become 
coarse. When she saw me she shrieked, covered her 
eyes with her hands, and sank down on her knees, cry- 
ing : ' Do not kill me ! ' 

She rose to her feet again : * Where are the judges } ' 
she exclaimed ; ' I have not confessed everything ; I want 
to see them ! ' 

Citizens Denizot and Royer were talking with two 
or three deputies who wished to see the poor woman ; 
they came forward and told her to speak out. She said 
she had concealed several objects of value in her country 
house at Luciennes, but she sobbed and broke down at 
every word. Citizen Royer, who held the pen, kept on 
saying, * Is that all ? ' and tried to make her sign the 
proch-verhal, but she pushed the paper away, saying 
that she had something to add. She perhaps thought 
that, in reason of the immense wealth she was giving up, 
she might be reprieved. At length Citizens Denizot and 
Royer rose, and said she must submit to the decision of 
her judges, and make up by her courage for the 
ignominy of her past life. One of my assistants 
approached and attempted to cut her hair, but she 
offered resistance, and the other assistants had great 
difficulty in binding her hands. She at last submitted, 
but she cried as I never saw a woman cry before. As 
many people crowded the quays as when the Queen and 
the Girondins were executed. Many cries were raised, 
but her shrieks were louder than any. She said : * Good 
citizens, free me ! I am innocent ; I am of the people, 

H 2 



loo MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

good citizens, do not let them kill me ! ' No one moved, 
but men and women hung their heads, and silence pre- 
vailed at last ; I never saw the people in a more merci- 
ful humour. Jacot's grimaces and taunts were of no avail. 
Dubarry was so faint that my son had to support her. 
She often spoke to me, begging for mercy. I was more 
moved than any one, for this unfortunate woman re- 
minded me of my young days, of the time when I knew 
her, of her worthy father. . . . When she saw the 
guillotine she became quite excited, and struggled with 
my assistants and tried to bite them. She was very 
strong, and three minutes elapsed before they could 
carry her up to the platform. She was frightful to look 
at, and to the very last second she struggled. The others 
were executed after her. 

Frimaire i8. — To-day we guillotined Jean-Baptiste 
Noel, deputy of Les Vosges, outlawed. On the way he 
spoke of Madame Dubarry, and asked me if the knife 
had been well cleaned, because it would be disgraceful 
that a republican's blood should mingle with that of a 
prostitute. A forger of assignats was executed with 
him. To-day Claviere, ex-minister, stabbed himself in 
his cell. 

Frimaire 20. — Executed six public purveyors for 
fraud. 

Frimaire 21. — It is no easy matter to get shoes now- 
a-days. The Convention has decided that shoemakers 
shall henceforth work for the defenders of the country 
only. Two convicts to-day. 

Frimaire 22. — Citizen Chaumette pursues women of 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. loi 

loose life with energy. He ought to begin by allaying 
public misery, which leads them into the life they lead. 
To-day we had to deal with two of these women, named 
Claire Sevin and Catherine Loriot. 

Frimaire 23. — Executed one of the great lords of the 
defunct Monarchy, the ci-devaiit Due du Chatelet. He 
did more harm to the Monarchy than its most inveterate 
enemies. The King gave him the command of the 
French Guards, in lieu of Biron ; Du Chatelet treated 
them so severely that he facilitated the work of those 
who were trying to disaffect the soldiers. He was 
carried to the prison parlour, for in the night he had 
attempted to destroy himself: having neither knife nor 
dagger, he tried to kill himself with a sharp piece of 
glass, but the glass broke, and only made a slight 
wound ; then, thinking that he could die by losing all his 
blood, he cut his breast several times with the piece 
which still remained in his possession, but he only suc- 
ceeded in weakening himself so that his legs could 
not carry him. Nevertheless, his heart was firm. I 
proposed in the cart to bind his wounds, and thereby 
prevent the blood from flowing, but he answered : 

' Never mind ; it's only saving you work ! ' 

He recovered some strength in the Place de la Revo- 
lution, and cried * Vive le Rot ! ' 

Frimaire 25. — Two men — Frangois Xavier Bruniau, 
an ex-royalist magistrate ; and Pierre Charles Jacques 
Pouchon, an emigre. 

Frimaire 26. — The servants of Montmorency, who 
has emigrated, were executed to-day. 



I02 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Frimaire 28. — Executed to-day three priests and 
two ci-devants. 

Frimaire '^i. — The Club des Jacobins continues its 
purification. It has excluded noblemen and financiers. 
Antonnelle and Dix-Aoilt/ members of the jury ; Royer, 
substitute of the prosecutor ; Barrere, Dubois-Crance, 
Montant,^ and many others must be in a predicament. A 
Jacobin certificate is now more valuable than all possible 
documents. To-day, as I was passing before Chretien's 
cafe, I was hailed by Citizen Geofifroy, a journalist. I 
think he must have been very drunk, for he treated me 
with familiarity, and asked me to drink with him. 

Nivose I. — I have begun the month by taking three 
convicts to the guillotine — a priest and two women. 
These were Julien d'Herville, priest and Jesuit ; Marie 
Anne Poulain, a nun ; and Marguerite Bernard, Anne 
Poulain's servant. They lived together in a house of 
the Faubourg d'Orleans. The priest said mass in one 
of the rooms, and several old women came every day to 
hear it. The local committee had suspicions ; it sent a 
woman to Citizeness Poulain, who told the latter that 
she knew a priest was concealed in the house, and asked 
that he should call on her husband who was dying. 

• Dix- Aout, a juror of the Tribunal, was, in reality, the IMarquis Leroy 
de Montflabert. As his title and name were obnoxious to republican ears, 
he changed it into the date of a great republican victory, which he took as 
a name. 

2 All these revolutionnaires more or less belonged to the aristocracy. 
Barrere was not of noble descent, but had married the Marquise de Vieuzac, 
whose name he added to his to distinguish himself from the members of 
his family bearing his name. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSONKS DIARY. 103 

Poulain denied that a priest was in hiding in her apart- 
ment, and told Julien d'Herville not to go, as she knew 
that the visitor was republican. But the priest would 
not listen to her, and was arrested in the house of the 
creature who had wanted to betray him. 

Nivose 2. — Only one execution to-day. 

Nivose 3. — It appears that Collot d'Herbois, on mis- 
sion at Lyons, has discarded the guillotine, because it 
only kills one man at a time, and taken to shooting 
enemies of the Republic wholesale. A deputation of 
Lyonese citizens have denounced these doings to the 
Convention ; but their brief has been ill received. Robes- 
pierre spoke first; he began by thundering against the 
aristocracy; but he concluded by proposing that local 
committees should appoint delegates in order to seek 
the means of setting at liberty the patriots who might 
be under lock and key. This is something, and people 
are grateful for what Robespierre has done. 

Nivose 4. — Madame Dubarry's confession did not 
save her life, but forfeited that of two persons. This 
morning I executed Jacques Etienne Laboudie, formerly 
of the navy, and Denis Morin, Madame Dubarry's 
valet-de-chambre, sentenced to death, the first for high 
treason, the second for having concealed money and 
jewels belonging to the nation. Two other persons, 
a woman and a plebeian, were executed in their 
company. 

Nivose 5. — Five executions to-day : Etienne Teyssier, 
high treason ; Michel Kurtz, Pierre Vetzel, Michel Bourg, 
and Bernard Hourtz. The four last named were Alsa- 



I04 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

tians. With the exception of Bourg, who encouraged 
his companions, all were frightened. It is curious that 
those whose life is the most tedious and plodding should 
regret it more than others who have far more reason for 
caring for it. 

, Nivose 6. — Executed a dishonest baker, Nicolas 
Gornot, of the Rue St. Jacques. All the citizens of his 
section were around the scaffold and insulted him. 
With him, Prevost Lacroix, captain in the navy, and 
Jean Marie AUard, curate of Bagneux. . . . 

Nivose 9. — Dietricht, formerly mayor of Strasburg^ 
was guillotined to-day. While I was binding him he 
said : 

* You have already guillotined many good republi- 
cans, but none that were more devoted to the country 
than I am.' 

He was calm and very plucky. He said more than 
once that his dying wish was that Alsace should never be 
separated from France. He cried ' Vive la Republique ! * 
on the scaffold. 

Nivose 10. — Last month, at the bidding of the pro- 
secutor of the Commune, I had been ordered to remove- 
the blood which oozed through the boards of the guillo- 
tine. A hole had been made which had been covered 
with a trellis-work. But the blood dried too rapidly and 
could not be absorbed by the earth, and an unbearable 
smell came from the pit. Last night I directed my 
assistants to dig deeper. It is said that Chabot, member 
of the Convention, who was lately arrested, poisoned 
himself, but that his sufferings were so great that he- 




DIARY. 105: 

:d for help, and 

irmles died to- 
itenced yester- 
ce de la Revo- 
room, and was 
seeing me, he 

sters ! ' 

aich made him 

ay ; I am at 

il tranquillity,, 
i arrive in the 
V year to his. 
n the way a 



MARIE ANTOINETTE. 

iulted. Smce 

(From the portrait by Mme. Le Brun.) . , , 

Ider with the 
convicts. If all cried and struggled as she did, the 
guillotine could not last. 

Nivose 12 (ist of January in the old style) and' 
Nivose 13. — Executed Charles Marie Barre, one of those 
who conspired against the unity of the Republic ; Pierre 



The nth of Nivose was the last day of the year of the old calendary. 



I04 ME. 

tians. With 
his companion 
those whose hf( 
regret it more Pineth 
caring for it. 

. Nivose 6.- 
Gornot, of the 
section were 
With him, Pre^ 

n 

Jean Marie AL 




ish artist Kocli.irsko, who, according 
set to watch the queen in the Con- 
ation of Pri cc d'Arenroerg at Bn.is- 



nt — fhat )'ou do all this without 

of your caprice, and of his too 

>f nothing but of races and 



uxed company. 



'Y\. 



iinj)n^vMi!,;vnt tor iite"' 
where licr husband li 
and D'OHva were disn 

When Marie Antoii 
larity was immense. ' 
she would inaugurate , 
era of vice and shajn^ 
X\\'.s reign. 

" Madame, is not t 
lovers .?" said the ol! I 
lo her as the crow;' 
n'es bov/ed in dei 
princess. She des( 

I shall never forget 
ceived all that could 1. 
less than the kindlinc 
though overwhelmed 
ing us. When we w- 
great that it was thret-j 
On getting hack vre asce 
<in hour, I nn)-, •>(- rJesc 



Nivose 9.-^'; 






wnic 
cda 


was guillotineo her ; 






V it 
^0 e< 


said : .,h%v,, ,,.., . 






1 sha 


^You have^V^t > 
The 
cans, but nontto t , 






'. COUl 

with t 


than I am.' fJSr^',: ^^t'.: 

He was ca>fore he- She an. 
,, ^ , . -al ^ Iv and \\ 

once that his Cf , 






ch I hi 

. ' hear \vh 

lie yoTing- m 

' , who b-!( 

i deeds c' 


separated from 'J 


ilS- 

ore 
•ec, _ ,, 


c iU 


 possible 


on the scaffold 

secutor of the^ad been ma:..;.a..  


iusal i. 
iproachi 

 s lUir.. 
■. la tors 





. ,, , ,. ^ died before .Lvyas tmished, 
the blood whlCurt, and no iL was left in the 

tine. A hole had been made which had been covered 

with a trellis-work. But the blood dried too rapidly and 

could not be absorbed by the earth, and an unbearable 

smell came from the pit. Last night I directed my 

assistants to dig deeper. It is said that Chabot, member 

of the Convention, who was lately arrested, poisoned 

himself, but that his sufferings were so great that he 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 105: 

could not bear them any longer ; he called for help, and 
he has still a few days to live. 

Nivose II. — Another general of our armies died to- 
day on the guillotine. Biron had been sentenced yester- 
day. This morning I led him to the Place de la Revo- 
lution, He was in the head-turnkey's room, and was 
eating oysters with much appetite. On seeing me, he 
said : 

' Allow me to eat this last dozen of oysters ! ' 
I answered that I was at his orders, which made him 
laugh ; and he said : 

* No, inorhlcu ! it's just the other way ; I am at 
yours ! ' 

He finished his repast with wonderful tranquillity,,, 
joking with me, and saying that he should arrive in the 
other world in time to wish a happy new year to his 
friends.^ He was cool to the end. On the way a 
soldier called out to him : 

' Farewell, general ! ' 

Biron answered : 

* Good-bye, comrade ! ' 

The soldier was neither beaten nor insulted. Since 
Madame Dubarry's death citizens are milder with the 
convicts. If all cried and struggled as she did, the 
guillotine could not last. 

Nivose 12 (ist of January in the old style) and 
Nivose 13. — Executed Charles Marie Barre, one of those 
who conspired against the unity of the Republic ; Pierre 

» The nth of Nivose was the last day of the year of the old calendary. 



io6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Frangois de Poller, Charles Louis de Faverolle, noble- 
man ; Agathe Jolivet, a gentlewoman ; and Pierre 
Joachim Van Clemput, priest. 

Nivose 14. — Three women and two men, all belong- 
ing to the nobility, were executed to-day. 
, Nivose 15. — This morning I gave thirty sols for a 
•copy of the 'Vieux Cordelier,' Camille Desmoulins's 
paper. It is the fifth number. The number of copies 
issued was not equal to the demand. Hebert has found 
a master ; and everybody wants to read the tremendous 
drubbing Camille Desmoulins gives him.^ Since so good 
a patriot as Desmoulins has dared to speak of clemency, 
every face looks happier. It is pretty certain that Dan- 
ton, Camille's friend, is behind him, and that between 
them they will put down those who wish the Republic 
to be baptised on the guillotine every morning. 

Meanwhile executions continue. To-day we guillo- 
tined the son of Custine ; it had been said yesterday 
that he would be acquitted, and his conviction has taken 
everybody by surprise. After him, Citizen Ladevize, 
formerly knight of St. Louis, was put to death. 

Nivose 16. — To-day we executed General Luckner. 
He was seventy-two years old, and quite broken by age ; 
but he was brave to the last, and died bravely. 

Nivose 17. — To-day I led to the guillotine three in- 
•dividuals of the same name, and yet they were not re- 
lated to each other. Were they brought together by a 
mere chance, or was it a joke of one of the secretaries 

' In the numbers alluded to above, Desmoulins attacked Hebert with 
•extraordinary power and wit. — N. Ed. 






CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 107 

<)f the prosecution, some of whom are young enough to 
laugh at what is not funny at all ? Their names were 
Camille Sapi Suschi Bologne, formerly a marquis, and 
an officer in the army ; Jean-Baptiste Bologne, non- 
commissioned officer in the French Guards ; and Nicolas 
Vincent Bologne, formerly vicar of Bicetre. The a- 
druant marquis was seventy-eight years of age. With 
them, Marie Louise de Camp, wife of Gilbert Grassin, 
gentleman. 

Nivose 19. — Executed Jean Mandrillon, late func- 
tionary of the executive power, convicted of treason, in 
•complicity with Brunswick and Dumouriez ; Claude 
Augustin Imbert, member of the Convention, guilty of 
having fabricated spurious passports; and Catherine 
Bethringer, convicted of treason. 

Nivose 20. — Marie Aimee Leroy, wife of Joseph 
Paucher, and Joseph Girouard, printer. 

Nivose 2'^, — Adrien Lamourette,constitutional bishop 
•of Lyons, was put to death to-day. He showed that he 
did not fear death. He was much insulted on the way ; 
he blessed the people without showing any bitterness or 
resentment. People cried to him, in alluding to his 
speech of July 1792 : 

' Embrace Chariot,^ Lamourette ; come, embrace 
Chariot ! ' 

Lamourette turned to me, and said : 

* Yes, I embrace in thee humanity ; however mad 
^nd furious it may be, it is always humanity.' 

^ * Chariot, ' for Charles. This contraction of Charles Henri Sanson's 
Christian name is still generally applied to the executioner in France. 

^N. Ed. 



io8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

And, in effect, he did embrace me, just as he was 
about to be strapped to the weigh-plank. After him^ 
Jean Joseph Durand, ex-president of the revolutionary 
committee of Montpellier, was put to death. 

Nivose 27. — Jean Pierre Thiellard, tradesman ; 
Charles HoUier, vicar of the constitutional church of 
Bordeaux ; and Pierre Ducourman, lawyer, were executed 
this morning. In the cart the three convicts sang a 
song they had composed in prison. Their singing ex- 
cited the anger of the people, who threw mud in their 
faces. Firmness does not mollify all citizens, but rather 
irritates them, as red irritates bulls. Some convicts 
return the taunts, and then it is worse. I have already 
witnessed really disgraceful scenes. Tirasse spoke of 
the matter to Renaudin, asking that Fouquier should 
give orders to the gendarmes, and that Jacot, my assis- 
tant, should be dismissed. Fouquier answered that he 
had no time to waste over such futilities. Renaudin 
has promised to speak of the matter to Robespierre. 

Nivose 2(). — This day has seen the condemnation and 
execution of the nephew of a man who had much reason 
to complain of the old regime — Jean Vissec, Baron de 
Latude. 

Phiviose 2. — A year since to-day we executed the 
King. This morning my wife was so pale and tired 
when she awoke that I guessed that her sleep had been 
troubled. She knelt down to pray, and I did the same. 
... I had to lead four to the scaffold to-day — Jearr 
Thibault, labourer; Marc Etienne Quatremere, merchant; 
Jean Marie de I'Ecluse, lieutenant in the navy ; and 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 109 

Bernard Sables, merchant. The town was merry, on 
account of the anniversary of the death of the King. 
The streets were full of citizens, who sang patrotic 
choruses. We reached the Place, and as L'Ecluse was 
.going up the steps loud shouts were heard. The 
members of the Convention were coming through the 
garden. The public, unasked, opened its ranks before 
the deputies ; but the latter neither advanced nor re- 
turned on their steps. A committee of Jacobins had 
asked the Convention that a deputation of its members 
should join the Commune in a pilgrimage to the tree of 
liberty in commemoration of the day. The motion had 
excited great enthusiasm, and the Assembly rose in a 
body to join the cortege. No doubt they had no idea of 
the surprise Citizen Fouquier had reserved for them. 
Many deputies, Avhen they saw the cart, tried to go 
away ; but the people pressed around them, thereby 
obliging them to witness the execution. The tumult 
was so great that the convict L'Ecluse stopped on 
the steps and turned round. The assistants stood 
motionless, and I myself did not care to outrage the 
majesty of the deputies of the nation by such a sight. 
Cries of * Proceed with the execution ! * were raised, and 
we did our duty. The head of the naval officer fell, 
and his three companions suffered after him. The 
thump of the knife was greeted with tremendous 
applause. 

Pluviose 3, 4, 5, — Thirteen executions of minor indi- 
viduals. 

Pluviose 13. — Yesterday I returned from Brie, where 



no MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

our country house is. The three days I passed there 
leave me no desire to return to the place. The word 
'fraternity' is inscribed on the mairie, but it is not 
inscribed on the hearts of the inhabitants. While the 
poorest in Paris sacrifice whatever they possess, while 
the most relentless sometimes behave with real gene- 
rosity, the inhabitants of the country only think of 
enriching themselves. The sale of the national domains,, 
far from satisfying them, has only excited their cupidity. 
The law awards death to monopolisers. Were the law 
carried out, a guillotine should be erected in every 
village ; for almost every peasant conceals his corn, for 
fear of being compelled to take it to market, and receive 
assignats in payment. There are, it is true, revolutionary 
committees in almost every village ; but the peasants 
understand their own interests, and they never denounce 
each other. They form a secret association, which 
defies the decrees of the Convention, and which is the 
real cause of famine. The patriotic vigilance of the 
said committees is only exercised at the expense of 
those who are rich enough to be envied. Thus several 
rich inhabitants of Coulommiers, two of whom I know, 
were brought to Paris, judged and executed to-day, 
under pretext of a conspiracy which never existed. 

Pluviose 1 6. — The jurors of the Revolutionary Tri- 
bunal are not very scrupulous as to whom they condemn,, 
and on their side the prisoners care little for life. Never 
were people more regardless of existence. Formerly,, 
when I used to enter a prison, my appearance frightened 
the boldest : now among the prisoners I meet in the 



CHARLES HENRY SANSON'S DIARY, in 

passages and parlour of the prison, not one seems to 
think that to-morrow, perhaps, I may call for him. There 
are some who smile when I appear. These smiles pro- 
duce a singular effect upon me. Experience has made 
me callous, and I can bear the horror with which we 
executioners are regarded ; but to get accustomed to 
people who almost say ' Thank you ' when they are led 
to the guillotine, is more difficult. My hand could not 
have remained firm if it had still to carry out such 
sentences as the former regime were wont to inflict. 
Judges, jurors, prisoners seem as if they were taken with 
a kind of delirium of death. When shall all this end .'* 
A prisoner asked me the other day : * What could I do 
in order to be guillotined immediately 1 ' Those who 
manifest such impatience perhaps are not the pluckiest. 
There are others who remain calm and cool, as if they 
had yet a hundred years to live. Such was Montjour- 
dain, commander of the St. Lazare battalion. During 
six weeks of incarceration in the Conciergerie he did 
not betray the slightest sign of fear or sadness. When 
he was informed that his time was come, he composed a. 
song. He was taken to the scaffold with one Cour- 
tonnet, and both kept on joking and laughing up to the 
last minute. 



113 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

CHARLES HENRY SANSON'S DIARY—continued. 

Plitviose 17. — To-day we executed some ladies of 
■quality. They showed almost as much tranquillity as 
Citizen Montjourdain. Their names were : Marie 
Gabrielle Lechapt, widow of the Marquis de Rastignac, 
-convicted of having sent money to her son, who had 
emigrated ; the ci-devant Marchioness de Marboeuf, con- 
victed of having accaparated provisions ; and with her 
Jean Joseph Payen, farmer of Madame de Marboeuf; 
and two forgers of assignats, Nicolas Armand and Jean 
Renaud. On the way Madame de Marboeuf exhorted 
Payen to die courageously. She said to him : 

' After all, my poor fellow, it is just the same whether 
we die to-day or twenty years later.' 

'If it is just the same,' answered Payen, who was not 
at all resigned to his fate, * I would rather die in twenty 
years.' 

Phiviose 19. — This day, Elisabeth Pauline Gand, 
wife of Count de Lauraguais ; Louis Pierre ; Madame de 
Lauraguais's steward ; Pierre Joseph Petit, constitutional 
curate of Menil, guilty of corresponding with the enemy ; 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 113 

and Nicolas Pasquin, formerly Princess Elizabeth's valet, 
were executed. 

Pluviose 22. — Couthon had, it appears, made more 
noise than harm at Lyons. He threatened very loudly, 
but his threats killed no one. Things considerably 
altered after he was superseded by Collot and Fouche. 
CoUot eschewed the guillotine, which he thought was 
not sufficiently expeditious, and executed with cannon, 
and thus put to death over two hundred persons every 
day. Robespierre and Couthon are indignant at this 
butchery. The Convention governs the Republic. It is 
itself governed by a dozen sanguinary leaders, who obey 
the orders of the Club des Cordeliers ; so that Hebert, 
who is the big gun of the Cordeliers, can say with reason 
that he is the real sovereign of the people. All this is 
sad enough. The Tribunal to-day sentenced six nuns. 
We executed them immediately after their trial. 

Pluviose 23. — Executed Anne Henri ette Bouchevain, 
Baronne de Vaxence, and Francois Amable Chapuy, 
lieutenant-colonel of the fifth battalion of Saone-et- 
Loire. 

Ventose i. — Ronsin, general of the revolutionary 
army, and Vincent have been set free. What is strange 
is that it is Danton who obtained the discharge of these 
two violent men. Ronsin strides about the streets with 
his old airs. His presence dispels all hopes of clemency ; 
and it has given rise to the rumour that another govern- 
ment is to be established. This government is to have 
for principal object the acceleration of revolutionary 
VOL. II. I 



1X4 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

justice. Ronsin is to be the head of the government ; 
under him is to be a military tribunal, composed of a. 
high judge, a prosecutor, and four judges. A council, 
called the Conseil Antique, is to take the place of the 
Convention. I need hardly say that very few people 
believe in this absurdity. To-day executed Francois 
Gerbaut, merchant, and a deserter named Gossenot. 

Ventose 6. — Jean Jacques Dortoman, formerly general 
in the Army of Italy ; Thomas de Maussion, a noble-^ 
man ; Joseph Canel, a hairdresser ; and Barbe Smith, a 
woman, were executed to-day. 

Ventose 8. — Wood, which was dear enough last 
month, is unapproachable now. The cold is intense. 
A month ago planks of the guillotine were stolen ; this 
morning, on our way to the Conciergerie, we found a 
man stretched out on the pavement ; he wanted to fetch 
some water from the river, had fallen on the quay, and 
had not the strength to get up. He told us that he had 
not eaten for two days. We had three cart-loads of 
convicts to-day, fifteen in all — men, women, noblemen, 
priests, and merchants. 

Ventose lo. — Robespierre is ill, and the Cordeliers 
have it all their own way. Yesterday they declared 
that Citizens Camille Desmoulins and Fabre d'Eglantine 
should be impeached : they also make the best of the 
sufferings of the people, which are great ; they accuse 
the Convention and speak of doing again what was done 
on June 2. What shall we become if they have the 
best of it "i Since the guillotine is at the order of the 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY, 115 

day, its inventors are always thinking of modifying it. 
Over twenty suggestions to that effect have been 
presented to the revolutionary committee, but they were 
so absurd that only one of these has been reserved for 
consideration. The plan consists in a trap opening near 
the weigh-plank, into which the body falls, a device which 
prevents accumulation on the guillotine. Citizen Vouland, 
of the Convention, was present when the experiment was 
made. It did not succeed, the two bags of sand which 
were used for the purpose having failed to enter the 
trap. Citizen Vouland asked for my opinion. I said 
that the proposed alteration was full of danger ; that if 
the trap did not close better than it opened, the execu- 
tioners or the convicts might fall through it with the 
corpses. He expressed his concurrence in this view, 
and the proposed alteration was shelved. 

We guillotined five persons to-day — four men and 
one woman. 

Ventose 13. — The Revolutionary Tribunal settles old 
accounts with country citizens. Two carts were sent to 
the guillotine to-day. All the convicts were peasants. 
A very unfortunate accident happened. Only one con- 
vict remained, all his companions having been executed 
before him ; as he was being strapped down, my son 
Henri, who was attending to the baskets, called me and 
I went to him. Lariviere, one of the assistants, had for- 
gotten to re-raise the knife, so that when the weigh- 
plank was lowered with the convict Laroque strapped 
upon it, his face struck the edge of the knife, which was 

12 



ii6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

bloody. He uttered a terrible shriek. I ran up, lifted 
the weigh-plank, and hastened to raise the knife. The 
convict trembled like a leaf. The mob hissed us, and 
threw stones at us. In the evening Citizen Fouquier 
severely reprimanded me. I deserved his blame, for I 
should have been in my usual place. Citizen Fouquier 
saw I was very sorry, and dismissed me with more kind- 
ness than I expected. Thirteen executions. 

Ventose 15. — The Cordeliers proclaimed insurrection 
in their sitting of yesterday. I see no symptoms of 
emotion in the streets ; gatherings are neither more 
numerous nor more turbulent than usual. If this goes 
on, the Pere Duchene (Hebert) may perhaps learn by ex- 
perience what the sensations of the guillotine are. On 
the other hand, the people of the guillotine,^ who are just 
as much the people of the Club des Cordeliers, were in- 
flamed by the speeches they had heard. Never have 
convicts been more hooted than those of this morning 
were. Cries of * Pitch them into the river ! ' were heard 
for the first time. The utmost consternation prevails 
throughout the prisons, with the exception of the Con- 
ciergerie, for those who are prisoners have very little 
hope, whatever may occur. The convicts of this morn- 
ing were a father and his two sons ; Guillaume Saint- 
Souplet, Anne Michel, and Anne Claude Saint-Souplet, 
aristocrats. Three other convicts also suffered. 

Ventose 17. — Guillotined, at three o'clock in the 
afternoon, Claude Compart, general inspector of the 

^ The narrator means the usual attendants of executions. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 117 

post-office ; Jacques Marie Duchemin, secretary of the 
Prince de Conde ; and Gilbert de Grassin, gentleman. 

Ventose 18. — A foreigner, who, as well as I could 
guess by his accent, was an Englishman, called on me 
to-day, and forthwith proposed to give me a neat sum if 
I would include him for one day among my assistants. 
I had all sorts of reasons to be surprised at the proposal ; 
I enquired whether what he wished to do was out of 
hatred against the French. He answered that he did 
not care much either for France or for the French, but 
that his motive was the satisfaction of curiosity ; 
that he had come to Paris to see a revolution of which 
the whole world was speaking, and that, before going, 
he wished to see an execution as closely as possible. I 
then tried to impress on him that his curiosity might 
bring him into trouble, that we were at war with his 
country, and that if he were identified he would cer- 
tainly be taken for a spy and treated as such ; in short 
I flatly refused his proffer. He listened to me with much 
coolness, and when I had done speaking, he answered 
that his mind was made up, and that, * in spite of me,* 
he would go on the scaffold. 

I could not help saying to him : 

* Take care you don't go there in spite of yourself 

He left me, saying, ^ Au revoir! 

To-day we had two executions : Louis Desacres de 
Laigle, Count and Marshal ; and Anne Alexandrine 
Rosalie de Larochefoucauld. 

Ventose 20. — Ronsin's and Hebert's party has at- 
tempted to raise the Commune. They asked that the 



ii8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Declaration of the Rights of Man should remain valid 
until the Republic had exterminated her enemies. 
They were listened to ; but no one stirred, not even 
Chaumette. It is said that Ronsin made a scene after 
the sitting, and tried to strike the prosecutor of the 
Commune. The fate of the Hebertists is as good as 
sealed now. It was even rumoured this morning that 
most of them had been arrested. 

Ventose 24. — Ronsin, Vincent, Hebert, Momoro, 
Laumur, Ducroquet, and Ancard were arrested last 
night. The details of their conspiracy were frightful. 
It is said that they proposed renewing the massacres in 
September. 

Ventose 26. — We had a terrible day's work to-day. 
In yesterday's sitting, the Tribunal passed sixteen sen- 
tences of death. I was ready at two o'clock yesterday; 
but Citizen Fabricius told me that, as it was raining fast, 
it was more advisable to delay execution until the next 
morning. This morning, then, I went to the Conciergerie 
with four carts. All the convicts were natives of the 
department of La Nievre, who had taken part in an 
insurrection. The execution lasted thirty-two minutes. 

Germinal i. — The trial of Hebert, Vincent, and the 
other Cordeliers commenced this morning. It is said 
that it cannot but last several days. This is a respite 
for me, at least. Two men suffered to-day. On returning 
from the Place de la Revolution, Citizen Fouquier ordered 
me to remain in permanency so long as the trial of the 
Hebertists should last ; so I entered the justice hall, 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 119 

and heard what was going on. Twenty accused were 
seated in a row. Hebert was very pale, and could hardly 
answer when he was spoken to ; Ronsin and Momoro 
seemed to defy the judges. The wife of Quetineau, who 
was executed the other day, is among the prisoners — no 
one knows why. Riviere told me that, during the first 
•days of their incarceration, they quarrelled together. It 
was Anacharsis Clootz who made them understand that 
these disputes were of no good. When Hebert was 
brought into the prison, those who had been arrested 
before him jeered him ; but Ronsin defended him, and a 
<:ollision ensued between the latter and a man named 
Collignon. Hebert and his partisans now turn their 
backs upon their other companions. Kock, the banker, 
in whose house they used to feast, will share their fate, 
He said he would give a last dinner to his friends before 
their death. 

Germinal 3. — Henri took my place to-day on the 
scaffold. I remained in permanency in the Tribunal. 
Hebert and Vincent are much discouraged. Ronsin does 
not flinch ; and Clootz is sad, but very calm and dignified. 
He has written a pamphlet entitled, 'The Universal 
Republic,' in which he said that he was the personal 
enemy of God. He also said that the world would join 
France, and adopt republican institutions. This pamphlet 
has been used against him ; and Renaudin said to him 
that it was only written to render the coalition of crowned 
lieads against France plausible. Clootz answered : 

' I cannot be suspected of being a partisan of kings ; 
it would indeed be extraordinary if a man who would 



I20 MEMOIRS OF THE S ANSON S, 

be burnt at Rome, hanged in England, and quartered 
at Vienna, were guillotined in Paris.' 

Clootz is a sincere madman who deserves a shower 
bath, and nothing more. And then the ways of the 
Tribunal are so singular that they excite interest on 
behalf of all those who appear before it, whoever they 
may be. Thus I heard the President upbraiding Clootz. 
for being a born Prussian, and for being rich ; this is sa 
unjust that it verges on stupidity. The trial will go on 
to-morrow. 

Germinal 4. — The execution took place to-day. The 
trial was resumed at ten o'clock this morning. President 
Dumas made a terrible speech, and the jurors retired to 
deliberate. At about half-past twelve they delivered 
their verdict. Nineteen of the prisoners were sentenced 
to death ; one only, Citizen Labourreau, medical student, 
was acquitted. Citizeness Jeanne Latreille, wife of the 
late General Quetineau, declared she was pregnant,, 
and obtained a provisional reprieve. The judgment 
must have been written beforehand, for hardly half-an- 
hour after it was delivered criers were reading it around 
the Palace of Justice. Their execution was to be imme- 
diate. Fouquier said : * Each second of their existence 
becomes an outrage to the majesty of the people.' I 
sent off some men to the Place de la Revolution- 
Henri hurried to the Rue Frangois-Miron, where the carts 
were ready. He returned with the same rapidity, and an 
hour and a half after the declaration of the verdict the 
prisoners were brought forward. They were eighteen in 
number — Jacques Rend Hebert, a man of letters, and 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 121 

before the Revolution employe oi the Theatre de Varietes ; 
Charles Philippe Ronsin, formerly a journalist, more 
recently general of the revolutionary armies ; Antoine 
Frangois Momoro, printer ; Nicolas Vincent, formerly 
lawyer's clerk ; Michel Laumur, general ; Jean-Baptiste 
Anacharsis Clootz, journalist and member of the Conven- 
tion ; Pierre Jean Proly, editor of * Le Cosmopolite ; ' 
Conrad Kock, banker ; Jacob Pereira, vice-president of 
the * Section du Bon-Conseil ; ' Armand Hubert Leclerc, 
employe in the war-office ; Francois Desfieux, wine mer- 
chant ; Jean Antoine Florent Armand, medical student ; 
Jean-Baptiste Ancard, manager of the arsenals ; Frederic 
Pierre Ducroquet, commisioner of the government ; An- 
toine Descombes, commissioner of the government ; Jean 
Charles Bourgeois, member of the committee of sur- 
veillance of war ; Pierre Ulric Dubuisson, commissioner 
of the executive power ; and Albert Mazuel, commander 
in the army. I was talking with Richard, the turnkey,, 
when I was apprised of the arrival of the carts. I went 
to see that everything was right, and while I was ex- 
amining the carts I saw, under a red cap drawn far 
down over the face of the wearer, a fair beard which I 
had never seen among my assistants. The man tried 
to walk away, but I soon identified the Englishman who 
had called on me the other day. He had given money 
to the assistants, and had obtained of them what I had 
refused, thinking that I would not point him out on the 
way to the scaffold. But I was not less obstinate than 
he was. We had five carts. I pretended to take him 
for what he gave himself to be, and I ordered him ta 



tSJfe^ 



MEMOIRS OF 



SANSONS, 



take one of the carts back to my house. He hesitated, 
and was about to speak ; but I looked in the direction 
•of the gendarmes and he reluctantly obeyed ; not, how- 
>€ver, without making me a grimace which signified, * Au 
revoir' Ronsin came forward first ; his mien was calm 
-and proud. Clootz also was quite cool, and in no way 
disturbed ; he continued his apostleship, and preached 
to his companions, asking them not to belie their princi- 
ples, assuring them that the guillotine was the ultimate 
•end of their tribulation, that the guillotine was the end 
of everything ; and begging them to give to the world 
the sight of a republican death. His voice was hardly 
audible, for the convicts continued to accuse each other. 
As Descombes's lips were silently moving, Clootz sup- 
posed that he was praying, and upbraided him for his 
cowardice. Vincent was not so bold as during the trial, 
Hebert came in, supported by two turnkeys ; he had 
scarcely strength enough to raise his legs. He was 
elegantly dressed, as was his wont, with a watch in each 
fob, but his attire was disordered ; his face was as livid as 
if the knife of the guillotine had already passed through 
his neck ; he wept, and drops trickled down his forehead. 
So much cowardice was unpleasant to behold. Ronsin 
was highly indignant ; he did not look at his former 
friend, and said to Momoro : * We staked our heads, we 
lost the game, we must pay with courage and firmness.' 
The toilet began, and as I had six assistants, it only 
lasted a few minute.s, and the signal for departure was 
given. There were so many people outside that we 
could hear the noise and murmur of the crowd. We 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 123 

-"emerged through the court of the prison. When the 
public saw the eighteen convicts there was a tremendous 
shout. This time every window was open and thousands 
■of heads peered out. What is rather curious is, that the 
rascals who usually escort us and who used to be Hebert's 
friends were the most violent against him to-day. The 
* Pere Duchene ' was particularly insulted ; but Hebert 
heeded not ; he was half dead with terror. When we 
passed before Duplay's house, the crowd cheered lustily, 
as if to thank Robespierre for ridding France of un- 
principled rascals like Hebert. Fouquier, out of com- 
passion for Clootz, had ordered that he should be 
•executed first. Clootz, however, refused ; he wished, he 
said, to fortify himself in his disbelief in second life, and 
urge to the last upon his companions to do the same ; 
and he added that the privilege given him was one which 
one always had the right to decline. There was a dis- 
pute on the matter, but the clerk told me to let him have 
his own way. Descombes was guillotined first ; then 
came Mazuel, Bourgeois, Armand, Leclerc, Dubuisson, 
Ducroquet, Kock, Ancard, Pereira, Desfieux, Laumur, 
Proly, Vincent, Momoro, and Ronsin, who was extremely 
courageous. When only Clootz and Hebert remained, 
I told my assistants to take Hebert. He exclaimed in 
a weak voice : ' Not yet ! ' Clootz heard him, and 
rushed forward crying : '■ Hurrah for the fraternity of 
nations ! long live the Republic of the world ! ' After 
him, Hebert was at length strapped down. I believe he 
fainted away while this was being done. I made a sign 
to Lariviere, who was holding the rope ; but either he 



124 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

did not see me or he wished to indulge the sanguinary- 
rage of the mob against the ' Pere Duchene,' for he did 
not obey. I rushed forward, took the rope out of his. 
hand, and pulled it myself. Enthusiastic cries of ' Vive 
la Republique ! ' were uttered when Hebert's head dis- 
appeared in the basket. 



125 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY—continued. 

Germinal 5. — Everybody looked pleased yesterday. 
A rumour had spread that Citizens Robespierre and 
Danton had made peace ; that one had demanded the 
execution of Hebert and his friends as a token of recon- 
ciliation, while the other asked for the heads of the 
great royalist conspirators, of the deputies accused of 
malversation, and of Chaumette and Simon, arrested on 
Vent6se 28, but that after these executions the Tribunal 
should be ordered to measure real justice. This was 
one of the reasons for which such an enormous multi- 
tude was out yesterday. This morning there was as 
much alarm as there was confidence yesterday. It was 
said that, far from thinking of making it up with Danton, 
Robespierre had only struck his enemies in order to 
strike Danton himself Our democracy is very much 
like a despotism, for those who exercise power cannot 
resign themselves to share it with others. One of the 
jurors, Naudin, was saying to Sellier : * To walk behind 
Robespierre, Danton is too tall by a head.' It is also 
said that Danton, on being warned of the danger which 
threatens him, answered : * They would not dare ; I am 



126 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the holy ark ; and if I supposed that Robespierre thinks, 
of arresting me, I would eat his heart.' I think he is 
mistaken. The only holy ark, nowadays, is the 
guillotine. It is as difficult for a tribune as for a king to 
know the real sentiments of the people. The people 
admires the great demolishers, but their admiration has 
something of terror. Danton speaks and acts like a 
man, Robespierre like a prophet: the empire shall 
always belong to prophets. The man with the blue 
coat ^ has already his devotees ; the wife of Des- 
morets, my assistant, recites prayers before a por~ 
trait of Robespierre ; a good many women do as she 
does. However zealous in the discharge of its functions 
the Tribunal may be, the prisons are nevertheless full to- 
overflowing. To-day we executed three natives of the 
department of AUier, sentenced for speaking against the 
Revolution. Two were brothers ; the third was the son 
of one of them. 

Germinal 6. — To-day we led to the scaffold Jean 
Louis Gouth, formerly constitutional bishop of Autun 
and member of the Constituent Assembly ; the two 
brothers Balleroy Charles Auguste and Frangois 
Auguste ; the former was a marquis and a lieutenant- 
general, the second a marshal ; Denis Joisel, servant of 
Monsieur, the King's brother, and Etienne Thery. The 
latter had usurped the title of representative of the 
people, with the mere object of obtaining gratis a good 
dinner in an inn. His assumption has cost him his life. 

Germinal 7. — It is said everywhere that the Com- 
* Robespierre. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 127 

mittees are discussing the arrest of Danton. In my 
humble judgment, big dogs are preparing to bite, for curs 
bark too boldly. Valate, a terrorist, is reported to have 
said yesterday : * Before a week Danton, Camille Des- 
moulins, and Philippeaux will be arrested.' If they 
are taken, it will be their own fault, for the rumour is 
public. But one cannot run away when one's name is 
Danton. Executed a man and a woman : Claude 
Marie Lambertye and Henri Moreau, convicted of con- 
spiracy. 

Germinal 8. — Jean-Baptiste Peusselet, formerly a 
monk ; Jacques Fernet, captain of dragoons and general 
in the service of Bavaria, suffered to-day. 

Germinal 9. — The Hebertists were sold by a man 
named Laboureau. He called his former friends rascals, 
and was discharged by the Revolutionary Tribunal for 
his pains. The day before yesterday Laboureau went to 
the meeting of the Jacobins ; Legendre, who presided, 
complimented him and congratulated the Tribunal on its 
equity. Poor Citizen Legendre, you may get to know to 
your cost what this equity is ! Executed Jean-Baptiste 
Collignon, printer ; Jean-Baptiste Courtin, abbot of the 
Order of Cluny ; Nicolas Jean Adam, monk ; Antoine 
Meffre, monk ; Louis Frangois Poire, one of Talleyrand's 
servants ; and Jacques Harille^ merchant. 

Germinal 11. — Citizens Danton, Camille Desmoulins,, 
Lacroix, and Philippeaux were arrested to-day and 
taken to the Luxembourg. Seven executions yesterday 
and to-day. 

Germinal 12. — Citizen Legendre, member of the 



128 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Convention, has not been arrested with Danton, as was 
rumoured yesterday. Richard, of the Conciergerie, has 
received orders to prepare No. 4, the cell formerly 
tenanted by Hebert, and the other cells occupied by his 
-companions. These preparations show that Danton and 
liis friends will be transferred to the Conciergerie this 
evening or to-morrow at the latest, and that their trial will 
take place immediately. Such prisoners are not easy to 
keep. To-day we guillotined Euloge Schneider, formerly 
a priest, who was prosecutor of the Revolutionary 
Tribunal of Strasburg. He used openly to turn the 
Terror to his profit — that is to say, to the profit of his 
vices ; he went about Alsace with his tribunal, his guil- 
lotine, and my colleague of Strasburg, obliging the in- 
habitants to illuminate their houses when he passed, 
levying contributions, passing capital sentences, and in- 
citing to plunder, theft, &c., wherever he stopped. One 
of his friends named Tunck wishing to marry, he 
required the attendance of all the girls of Barr, and 
allowed him to choose in the lot ; and to complete his 
kindness, he ordered the executioner to collect money 
around the scaffold for the bride and bridegroom. 

Soon after, he felt a desire to establish himself also, 
and at one o'clock in the morning he sent a peremptory 
order to a citizen of Barr to bring him his daughter, who 
was young and handsome. The unfortunate man dared 
not refuse. On the following day he returned to Stras- 
burg with the poor child, in a carriage drawn by six 
horses. But Citizen Saint-Just had arrived during 
Lis absence, and Schneider was arrested on the 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 129 

■same day, exhibited during three hours on his own guil- 
lotine, and sent off to Paris in the evening, there to be 
tried. This terrible Schneider has been very humble 
and small in my hands. He was a broad-shouldered, 
thick-necked man, well knit, and as strong as a bull ; 
his face was sinister and altogether repulsive. He tried 
to joke, and spoke jocosely of the thickness of his neck ; 
but he could not go on ; tears came to his eyes, and a 
tremor shot over his frame. On the Place de la Revo- 
lution, he called me ' Sir, sir, sir ! ' not knowing what he 
was saying. Before him, Louis Simon CoUivet, grocer ; 
Charles Brochet de Saint Priest, nobleman ; and Charles 
Victor Frangois de Sulabery, nobleman, were executed. 

Germinal 13. — Citizen Danton and his friends have 
been transferred to the Conciergerie. Their trial is to 
take place to-morrow. The trial of the deputies charged 
with malversation is to take place at the same time. 
Fifteen men in all. 

Germinal 14. — Executed Jean Masquet, cattle-dealer, 
and Etienne Jacques Armand de Rougemont, nobleman. 



VOL. ir. K 



130 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

TRIAL OF D ANTON, CAMILLE DESMOULINS, WESTER- 
MANN, &^c. ^-c. 

Charles Henri Sanson's notes contain no informa- 
tion on the trial of the Dantonists. This trial, however,, 
my grandfather must have followed with the greatest 
interest. In some parts of his diary it is easy to detect 
his conviction that the result of the struggle between 
Danton and Robdspierre would be to increase or dimi- 
nish the number of capital sentences delivered by the 
Revolutionary Tribunal. No wonder that he should 
have been interested in this phase of the history of the 
Revolution. My father told me that Charles Henri was 
present at almost every sitting of the Revolutionary 
Tribunal, and related to his family all that he had seen 
and heard. It is perhaps owing to the emotion which he 
felt then that the present gap in his diary is to be ascribed. 

The Danton affair is, however, of such importance 
that it may not be amiss to say a few words on it before 
we recur to Charles Henri Sanson's diary. 

Whatever opinion may be held of Danton, one can- 
not but recognise that his overthrow was the great event m 
of the revolutionary period. Until then the Revolution 



I 




MD £\.M 1^(&W o 



TRIAL OF DANTON, ETC. 131 

had only struck those who might be regarded as her 
enemies. The impeachment of the celebrated tribune 
was the first blow aimed at the upholders of the Re- 
public ; little by little the revolutionists tore, mangled, 
and destroyed each other ; and finally the intervention 
of a Barrere or a Tallien was enough to consummate 
the ruin of the republican edifice. 

As was said before, Camille Desmoulins, Danton, 
Philippeaux, and Lacroix were arrested in the night of 
the nth of Germinal. It has been said that Robes- 
pierre was adverse to this measure, but this is far from 
true. His personal interests were concerned in the 
arrest of these four men, and he afterwards betrayed his 
hatred for Danton and his friends by making a speech 
against them in the Convention. Danton, at the time, 
was the noble exponent of generosity and clemency. If 
he had all the vices of a powerful and exuberant nature, 
he also had high qualities ; he was disgusted at judicial 
massacres, and, after looking on in silence, he had spoken 
out and expressed his real sentiments. Public opinion 
had therefore identified his views with the sublime pages 
in which Camille Desmoulins gave vent to his patriotic 
grief and indignation. The natural consequence was 
that the fanatics who thought that blood alone could 
cement the revolutionary edifice, considered the death 
of these two men indispensable to the realisation of 
their dreams. As to Robespierre, his yiews were, it 
appears to me, more profound. Cruelty was not in his 
nature ; it was one of the necessities of his policy. He 
was too sagacious not to be aware that real popularity 

K2 



132 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

would belong to those who should speak of clemency ; 
and Robespierre no doubt wished to reserve this popu- 
larity for himself. Danton spoke of clemency before 
him ; that was his only crime. 

Danton made no show of resistance when he was 
arrested. As to Camille Desmoulins, he opened his 
window and called for help against tyranny when the 
soldiers entered his room. No one answering his appeal, 
he resigned himself to his fate, took some books, em- 
braced his young wife and his child, and allowed him- 
self to be led off. Philippeaux and Lacroix were 
arrested without any difficulty. On the day after their 
incarceration the four prisoners were permitted to walk 
in the courtyard, where the inmates of the prison 
met. Camille was dark and sad, Lacroix was dis- 
heartened, Philippeaux was calm and resigned, Danton 
was just what he usually was, cheerful and full of power 
of repartee. The news of the presence of these powerful 
men had spread like wildfire in the prison, and all 
flocked to see them. A few prisoners even forgot that 
Danton and his friends were amongst them for taking 
up their cause, and insulted them. A ci-devant said, 
pointing to Lacroix, who was tall and strong : ' He 
would make a fine coachman.' Danton smiled con- 
temptuously. Somebody having enquired how he, 
Danton, could have been deceived by Robespierre, he 
answered that, after all, he would rather be guillotined 
than guillotine. Tom Payne was a prisoner in the 
Luxembourg at the time ; Danton shook hands with 
him, saying, in English : * I am glad to meet you, friend ; 
what you have done for the happiness and liberty of 



TRIAL OF DANTONy ETC. I35 

your country, I have in vain striven to do for mine. I 
have been less fortunate, but no guiltier than you. 
They now send me to the scaffold : such is my reward.' 

When the four prisoners received the act of im- 
peachment drawn up against them, Camille Desmoulins 
foamed with rage, Philippeaux raised his hands to 
heaven, Danton laughed and rated Camille for his 
want of callousness. He went up to Lacroix and asked 
him : ' Well, what do you think of this pretty docu- 
ment ? ' * I think we had better make ready to meet 
Sanson,' answered Lacroix. 

Danton was in hopes of moving the public on the day 
of trial ; and his expectations were certainly not over 
sanguine. The report of his arrest and that of Camille, 
who was very popular, had produced a sensation. On 
the nth and 12th many persons were assembled near 
the walls of the Luxembourg, and my father told me 
that they looked at the prison with astonishment, as 
if they expected to see it crumble down, like a new 
Jericho, at Danton's bidding. Camille's soul was more 
tender and poetical than Danton's. He thought of his 
young and charming wife, and of his baby son. His 
wife passed her days in the garden of the Luxem- 
bourg, and he tried to catch a glimpse of her through 
the bars of the prison window. He recovered his powers 
as a writer, and began his last number of the ' Vieux 
Cordelier,' his final denunciation of tyrants. He also 
wrote to his wife a really magnificent letter, which has 
been reproduced by the historians of the Revolution. 
Danton and his friends were transferred to the Con- 
ciergerie on the 13th, and were immediately brought 



134 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

before the Revolutionary Tribunal. The jurors had 
been carefully chosen, and it was notorious that not one 
of them was favourable to the prisoners. Four other 
members of the Convention, charged with malversation, 
were included in the charge. These were Chabot, De- 
launay, Bazire, and Fabre d'Eglantine. The accusation 
made out against them was never proved. Other pri- 
soners were tried at the same time. There were thirteen 
in all ; but Fouquier discovered that some had been for- 
gotten, and the number was raised to fifteen. 

The decision of the jury was a foregone conclusion, 
and the debates of the trial have been so often described 
that there is but little need to relate them at length. All 
the accused displayed stern bravery, knowing well the 
fate that was reserved for them. But none equalled 
Danton in eloquence and vehement denunciations of his 
enemies. His attitude was superb, and before him the 
judges and jurors shrank back and trembled. His 
tremendous voice could be heard outside the court, and 
it became so evident that the people would rise to de- 
liver him if he were allowed to continue, that the Pre- 
sident of the court ruled that the prisoners should be 
removed from the hall of justice while their fate was 
being decided. The whole trial, in fact, was a shameful 
parody of justice ; and when a verdict of guilty was 
brought in against all the accused with the exception 
of one, no one for a moment doubted that Danton and 
his friends were the victims of a cruel and relentless 
policy. 

I now leave my grandfather to speak for himself. 



135 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

CHARLES HENRY SANSON'S DIARY— continmd. 

Germinal i6. — By the order of Citizen Fouquier, I 
Temained in the vicinity of the Tribunal all day yester- 
day. The hall of justice was so crowded that I could 
not gain admittance. I arrived at nine o'clock this 
morning at the Conciergerie. As I passed the thresh- 
'old, a gendarme tapped me on the shoulder, and said 
to me : ' You'll have plenty to do to-day ; ' and Riviere 
added : * They are all sentenced to death.' He was 
mistaken, as I found out afterwards, for Citizen Luillier 
was acquitted. He was so inoffensive and obscure that 
no one thought of him. Richard's lodge was crowded 
with people who wanted to see the prisoners. As I 
was crossing the courtyard, Wolf, one of the clerks, told 
me to follow him upstairs. Citizen Ducray and two 
•other clerks were writing ; and Fabricius Paris, the 
head clerk, was walking up and down the room. His 
eyes were very red ; he was deadly pale, and he 
trembled like a leaf When he saw me, he said : * I am 
:going away.' Ducray turned round and said : * Will you 
iign } ' * No, no, once more,' replied Citizen Fabricius ; 
** I would rather burn my hand than sign.' He went 



136 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



A 



away with tears in his eyes. I was not surprised, for 
I knew him to be a great friend of Danton's, and his- 
pluck pleased me. Fouquier-Tinville, who is a cousin 
of Desmoulins, had not the same scruples. Lescot- 
Fleurlot, deputy-prosecutor, and two other functionaries, 
entered the room. Lescot asked me whether my carts, 
were ready. I replied that they were. He then, 
ordered me to go down and wait, which I did. 

I had been waiting for a considerable time, when a 
gendarme came to tell me that I was wanted by Fou- 
quier-Tinville. I found a good many persons in his- 
closet — old Vadier, Amar, Coffinhal, Arthus, Herman^ 
among others. Although Fouquier was present, I re- 
ceived the order of execution from the hands of Lescot. 
He told me that the convicts had rebelled against the 
Tribunal ; that they would probably offer new resistance r. 
that to prevent any mishap they would be introduced 
one by one ; that I should have to seize them imme- 
diately, and pinion them. Fleuriot added that if the 
convicts attempted to excite the people on their way to* 
the scaffold, I was to go at a trot, and make all haste. 
He also recommended extreme celerity in the execution 
itself, observing that the sooner the *rufifians' died the 
better. After this, a discussion arose as to the number 
of carts required. I had ordered three out. Lescot 
said that one was sufficient, and Coffinhal observed thafc 
only one should be used. I objected to this, and ob- 
tained two carriages. 

I then proceeded to the parlour, which was full of 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. \yf 

gendarmes and soldiers. They formed two thick ranks* 
Half-an-hour elapsed before one of the convicts ap- 
peared. This was Chabot He looked very ill. He 
was surprised at finding himself alone, and murmured : 
* Where are the others } ' He was pinioned, and his 
hair was cut. Bazire was the next to appear. Chabot 
rose, and, running up to him, exclaimed, with tears in 
his eyes : * My poor, poor Bazire, it was I who brought 
you to this ! * Bazire pressed him in his arms, without 
a word of reproach. 

The two Freys, Delaunay, member of the Convention^ 
the Abbe d'Espagnac, and Disderiksen were led in 
after Bazire. After these, Philippeaux, Lacroix, Wester- 
mann, and Fabre d'Eglantine, Two turnkeys supported 
the latter, who was ill. During the toilet, Fabre said 
he wished to speak to Fouquier. One of my assistants 
called a clerk, who said this was not possible. Citizen 
Fabre then became angry, and cried : ' You ought to be 
satisfied with murdering me, and not steal my property ! 
I publicly protest against the infamy of the members of 
the Tribunal, who have stolen from me a MS. comedy, 
which had nothing to do with the trial.' Lacroix and 
Philippeaux were calm. 

Fabre was still speaking when a noise was heard in 
the passage. We recognised the voice of Citizen Dan- 
ton, and there was a dead silence. His words came out 
like a torrent. I distinctly heard him say to the clerk 
who wanted to read out his judgment : * Be d — d, and 
your judgment with you ! I won't listen to it ! What a 



138 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

farce ! ' He thundered away, and all seemed to recoil 
before him. But when he saw the other convicts, his 
-demeanour altered completely. He assumed a cold, in- 
different air, and calmly walked up to me. He sat 
down, and tore away his collar, saying : ' Do your duty, 
Citizen Sanson.' I cut his hair myself. It was thick 
and hard like a mane. Meanwhile he went on speaking 
to his friends : * This is the beginning of the end ; 
they'll guillotine the representatives wholesale. Com- 
mittees governed by a Couthon without legs, and a 
Robespierre. ... If I could leave them mine, they 
might go on for some time. . . . But no ; France will 
awake in a cesspool before long.' Shortly after, he ex- 
claimed : ' We have accomplished our task. Let us go 
and sleep.' 

Citizens Herault de Sechelles and Camille Desmou- 
lins were led in next. The former gave no sign of emo- 
tion ; the latter spoke of his wife and child in heartrend- 
ing terms. As soon as he saw us, he was seized with a 
tremendous fit of rage. He rushed upon my assistants, 
and struggled with them like a giant. All his clothes 
were torn in the scuffle. Four men had to hold him 
-down on the chair. His friends tried to soothe him — 
Fabre with soft words, Danton with a tone of authority. 
The latter said : ' Leave these men alone ! What's the 
use of fighting with the servants of the guillotine } 
They are only doing their duty. Do yours.' 

At length everything was ready. Ducray headed 
the cortege. The members of the Convention and 
■General Westermann occupied the first cart, in which I 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 139 

and Henri sat down also ; four assistants were in the 
second cart with the other convicts. The escort was as 
numerous as that provided for the Queen and the Giron- 
■dins. Danton stood in the first rank, behind me ; next 
to him was Herault de Sechelles ; Fabre, Camille, and 
Philippeaux were behind. Chabot was the only one 
who sat down. He had tried to poison himself, and 
suffered much. Bazire stood next to him, and spoke to 
liim words of tender friendship. 

As the carter whipped his horse Danton exclaimed : 
* The idiots ! they'll cry " Long live the Republic ! " In 
half-an-hour the Republic will be without a head ! ' 
Fabre d'Eglantine was inconsolable about his comedy, 
which he said was in verse ; upon which Danton 
laughed, and said to him : 'Verses ! ^ you'll have enough 
■of them in a week, and we too.' 

As we reached the quay, Camille Desmoulins became 
very furious. ' Do you not recognise me .•* ' cried he; 
The Bastille fell at my bidding! Come to my help, 
republicans ! Do not let them murder us ! ' 

His cries were received with groans. His fury in- 
creased, and we had to threaten to tie him to the side 
of the cart if he did not remain still. Danton, who 
■clearly saw that the people who surrounded them would 
not rise to free them, said to Camille in a strong voice : 
^ Be quiet, be quiet ! do not hope to soften this vile 
rabble.' And Lacroix : * Be calm ; think rather of com- 
manding respect than of exciting pity.' 

^ Vers in French, and as far as euphony is concerned, means worm as 
well as verse. 



I40 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Danton was right: there was no hope for them. 
The escort was surrounded by the usual attendants of 
the guillotine, and they shouted so that it was impossible 
for the public at large to hear what the prisoners said. 

Passing before a cafe we saw a citizen, seated on a 
window-sill, who was drawing likenesses of the prisoners. 
The latter looked at him, and murmured : * David^ 
David ! ' Danton raised his voice, and cried : ' Is that 
you, valet ? Go and tell your master how soldiers of 
liberty can die.' Lacroix also spoke to him violently. 
David went on drawing. Doors, windows, and shutters 
were closed in Duplay's house (where Robespierre lives). 
When the prisoners saw the house, they aimed sarcasm 
over sarcasm at its walls. * Vile hypocrite ! ' said Fabre. 
* The coward is hiding himself, as he hid on August lo,*" 
cried Lacroix. Danton's voice rose louder than any. 
His face was purple, and his eyes glistened like burning 
coals. 'You shall appear in this cart in your turn, 
Robespierre,' he exclaimed, * and the soul of Danton 
will howl with joy ! ' 

Danton was the same to the last : passing without 
transition from the most violent anger to the greatest 
calmness ; at times brutal, at others sarcastic, and always 
firm. As we came in sight of the scaffold his colour 
slightly altered. The attention with which I looked at 
him seemed to displease him, for he elbowed me roughly, 
saying : ' Have you not a wife and children t ' I replied 
that I had. He then resumed with impetuosity : ' So* 
have I. I was thinking of them.' And I heard him 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 141 

tnurmur : * My wife, I shall not then see you again ! My 
child, I shall not see you ! ' ^ But a few seconds after he 
was himself again. 

Delaunay, Chabot, Bazire, the two Freys, Gusman, 
Disderiksen, and D'Espagnac died first. When Camille 
Desmoulins was on the platform he asked me to do 
him a last favour, which was to take a lock of his hair 
and send it to his mother-in-law. He then stepped to- 
wards the weigh-plank without resistance. Fabre, La- 
croix, Westermann, Philippeaux suffered next. Wester- 
mann cried several times, ' Vive la Rcpitblique ! ' Herault 
de Sechelles came next, and Danton with him, although 
he was not called. My assistant had already seized 
Sechelles, when Danton advanced to embrace him. But 
it was too late. Danton looked on while his friend was 
being executed, with such coolness as does not belong 
to man. Not a muscle in his face moved. He seemed 
to defy not only the fear of death, but death itself. 
The weigh-plank was hardly lowered when he advanced. 
I advised him to turn round while the body was being 
removed. He shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. 
* Do not forget to show my head to the mob ; they have 
not often seen one like it ! ' 

When, according to his last wish, Danton's head was 
shown, there were cries of ' Vive la RepubliqiLe I' but 
not many. 

The cemetery of La Madeleine, where are the King, 
the Queen, and the Girondins, having been closed, the 

* Madame Danton was enceinte when her husband was put to death. 



142 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

fifteen corpses of the Dantonists were taken to the 
small cemetery which has just been opened near the 
Barri^re Monceaux. 

I went to the Palace of Justice to take orders for to- 
morrow. Met Desboisseaux and Vilate, two jurors. 
They wanted to know how Danton had died. I related 
what I had seen. ' It is not astonishing ; he was drunk/ 
exclaimed one of them. I assured them that Danton, 
was not drunk at all ; upon which they called me a traitor 
and a blackguard, and went away in a passion. 

Germinal 17. — I did to-day what Citizen Desmou- 
lins asked me. I got the address of his father and 
mother-in-law, at his house in the Rue de la Comedie, 
and went to No. 17 Rue des Arcs. Of course I did not 
go up. I sent for the servant, without telling her who I 
was, and said that, being present at the execution of 
Citizen Desmoulins, he had asked me to hand a 
locket to the mother of his wife. I then departed ; 
but I soon heard steps behind. The servant came up, 
saying that Citizen Duplessis, Camille Desmoulins* 
father-in-law, wished to speak to me. I answered that 
I was in a hurry, and that I would return another day. 
But at that moment Citizen Duplessis himself came up. 
I told him what I had said to the girl. He answered 
that I must have something more to say to him ; and he 
insisted so much that I could not but follow him. He 
lived on the second floor. We entered a richly-furnished 
room. He showed me a chair, and sat down. Hearing 
the cry of a child, I turned round and saw a cradle in 
the corner of the apartment. Citizen Duplessis ran up 



i 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 145 

to the cradle, and took out a child, who looked unwell. 
He showed him to me, and said : * It is his son.* He 
kissed the baby, and said, with an effort : ' You were 
there — you saw him ? ' I nodded my assent. * He died 
like a brave man — like a republican, eh ? ' I answered 
that Camille's last words had been for those he loved. 
After a pause, he suddenly turned pale, and wringing his. 
hands : ' And my poor daughter, my Lucille ! ' he ex~ 
claimed ; * will they kill her, as they killed him } ' And he 
expressed his grief in heartrending terms. ^ A cold shudder 
crept over me. M. Duplessis walked to and fro, clenching 
his fists. As he was passing before a bust of Liberty on 
the mantelpiece, he threw it down, and furiously broke it 
to pieces. I was grieved and awed, and found no words 
of consolation for the poor old man. There was a ring 
at that moment, and an elderly lady, whose handsome 
face was pale with despair, entered and threw herself inta 
the arms of Citizen Duplessis, crying : ' Lost ! she is lost ! 
She is to appear in three days before the Tribunal.' It 
was Madame Desmoulins' mother. I was seized with 
terror at the thought that I might be recognised by a 
woman in the loss of whose happiness I had a finger ; 
and I ran away, as if I had committed a crime. 

Germinal 1 8. — A generous citizen presented himself 
yesterday before the Convention, and offered to defray 
all the expenses of the guillotine. Executed seven mert 
and four women to-day. 

Germinal 20.— Desmoulins' wife is at the Concier- 
gerie with her so-called accomplices. They are to 

* Madame Desmoulins had been arrested. 



144 ' MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

appear to-morrow before the Tribunal, with Citizen 
Chaumette and several others. 

Germinal 23. — To-day we put to death Claude 
Souchon, formerly general in the army of the Pyrenees. 
He was a very brave man, and he died crying : ' Vive la 
Republique ! ' 



145 



CHAPTER XL. 

CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY— continued. 

Germinal 24. — The trial of the wife of Citizen Des- 
moulins was concluded to-day. Her despair was intense 
when she arrived at the Conciergerie. It was at first 
thought that she was insane, and some hoped that she 
might be saved on account of her diseased mind. But 
she recovered her wits during the trial, and her fate was 
soon sealed. With her were tried a batch of revolu- 
tionnaires, among whom were Chaumette and Arthur 
Dillon, ex-count, and general of the Army of Ardennes, 
and Hebert's wife. 

When the last hour came, Madame Desmoulins ap- 
peared dressed in her best attire. Madame Hebert cried 
much, and Madame Desmoulins tried to console her. As 
she was stepping into the cart, Dillon approached her. 
She told him that she bitterly regretted being the cause 
of his death. Dillon answered that it was not her fault, 
and he expressed his grief at the sad fate of so young 
and so charming a creature. Madame Desmoulins 
interrupted him : * Look at me,' she exclaimed, ' and say 
whether my face is that of a woman who needs consola- 
tion. My only wish, since Camille's death, has been to 
VOL. II. L 



146 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

join him ; this wish is now about to be accomplished. 
If I did not detest those who have condemned me^. 
because they murdered the best and most honest of men, 
I would bless them for the boon they now confer on me/' 
She then bade farewell to Dillon. Dillon was in the 
first cart, Madame Desmoulins in the second, with the 
Grammont-Nourrys, Lacroix, Lapalu, Lassalle, and 
Madame Hebert. On the way she talked with the last 
two citizens, who were very young — Lapalu was twenty- 
six years of age, and Lassalle twenty-four. She spoke 
so gaily that she made them smile more than once. 
Their conversation was troubled by the tears of Madame 
Hubert, and by the two Grammonts, v/ho kept on 
quarrelling with each other. The son charged the father 
with having caused his death. In his rage the young 
man called his father a ruffian. ' Sir,' said to him 
Madame Desmoulins, * it is said that you insulted Marie 
Antoinette on the way to the scaffold ; you should have 
preserved some of your audacity for to-day.' She died 
without even turning pale. Dillon cried * Vive le Roi ! ' 
Grammont the elder wished to embrace his son, but the 
latter would not let him. 

Germinal 25. — This morning I sent some hair of 
Madame Desmoulins to her father and mother. I gave 
the parcel to a Savoyard who did not know me, and 
directed him to take it to M. Duplessis' house, for I did 
not care about going there again. To-day we executed 
a nobleman, Jacques Antoine de la Barbiere de Refluet, 
and three individuals of lesser importance. 

Germinal 26. — Charles Mathias Dalengon de Neu- 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY, 147 

ville, ex-count ; Marie Jeanne de Lescale and Victoire de 
Lescale ; Marie Constance Galley, nun ; Aime Courradin 
de Lanone ; Louis Etienne Brevet de Beaujour, barrister 
at Angers ; Jean-Baptiste Lareveilliere, president of the 
tribunal of Maine-et-Loire ; Louis Diensic de Mizauge, 
ex-count ; and Jean Frangois Antoine Tissier Ducloseau, 
magistrate, were executed to-day. 

Germinal 27. — Hugues Louis Jean Pelletier de 
Chambure, master of the post-office at Arras ; Francois 
Constant Cassegrain, ex-curate of Pithiviers ; Jacques 
Huet, hairdresser ; Pierre Laville, shoemaker and mem- 
ber of the revolutionary committee of the section of the 
Tuileries ; and Paul Lapeyre, surgeon, were guillotined 
to-day. 

Germinal 28. — A great deal is said of a new decree 
which is about to be issued on the proposition of Citizen 
St. Just, outlawing all foreigners and noblemen who 
should be found in Paris two days after the issue of the 
decree. No one could help smiling at the alleged con- 
spiracy of Danton, Herault de Sechelles, and Camille 
Desmoulins — the said plot has now become an article of 
faith in which one must believe or die. In a private 
conversation with Vadier, Dufourny tried to play the part 
of St. Thomas ; Vadier forthwith denounced him at the 
Club des Jacobins, and at the requisition of Robespierre 
he has been expelled from the Club. He can consider 
himself lucky in getting off so easily. The other day I 
witnessed the arrest of a poor artisan because he said 
that Danton was a good fellow, and a better man than 
St. Just. To-day we led to the guillotine seven convicts, 

L2 



148 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Jdrdmie Baudot, monk ; Jacques Pierre Chalot, curate of 
Marsal ; Julien Decous, curate of Nouvillac ; Charles 
Tibault Acor, Hippolyte Mermin, Pierre Louis Henry, 
and Hector Simille, tradesmen and labourers. 

Germinal 30. — Since Dumas has succeeded to Her- 
man as president of the Tribunal, trials take place in 
larger numbers, a prodigy which was thought impossible. 
Seventeen persons were sentenced to death yesterday ; 
I executed them this morning. This execution was one 
of the most lamentable in which I ever took a part. 
The women were in a majority. Several among these 
women had their children in the carts. Jacques Joseph 
Laborde, banker ; Arthur Gustave Geneste, banker ; 
Pierre Haringue de Guibeville, nobleman, late president 
of the parliament of Paris ; Marie Haringue de Bonnaire ; 
Marie Charlotte de Bonnaire ; Marie Louise de Charras, 
of Angouleme; Frangois Mesnard de Chouzy ; Sebastien 
Rollat, nobleman ; Rene Rollat, officer ; Louis Georges 
Gougenot; Anne Marie de Mesle, wife of Marshal de 
Mesle; Ange-Michel de Bellecourt, officer in the Russian 
service ; Jeanne Marie Nogues, wife of Bellecourt ; 
Marguerite Anne Gouvel; Jean Robin, Guibeville's valet ; 
and Francois Mathieu Payma, servant of the younger 
Madame de Bonnaire — all convicted of conspiracy 
against liberty. The sight was affecting in the extreme, 
for the women cried and moaned. 

Floreal i. — The Tribunal has judged, in the name of 
Revolution, those who used to judge in the name of 
Justice, and to-day I led to the guillotine the same 
magistrates whose sentences I was wont to carry out. I 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 149 

had been much moved on seeing them leaving the 
Tribunal, to the number of twenty-five of the parliament 
of Paris and provincial parliaments, advancing in a file, 
the presidents first, and the others behind them, grave 
and austere as if they had been going to some ceremony. 
When they were brought to the Hall of the Dead, and 
when President Pochard de Sarron held out his hands 
to me, I trembled, and could not help showing con- 
sternation ; whereupon the president said to me : 

* Do what the law orders. Even an unjust law is a 
law.' 

In the cart, and before the guillotine, they retained 
the same attitude : no tears, or reproaches, or clap-trap 
bravery. They died with the serene pride of the old 
Romans, who waited for the Gauls. 

Floreal 2. — The Jacobins have been engrossed with 
a mighty affair. The tax-collector of their section 
thought that patriotism had nothing to do with the pay- 
ment of rent, especially when this rent was to go into 
the coffers of the State ; he therefore wrote to the com- 
mittee of the Club asking for what was due to the nation. 
Indignation was great at this audacity, and Collot 
d'Herbois asked that the misdemeanant should be sent 
to the Revolutionary Tribunal. The times have, then, 
returned when great lords used to throw their creditors 
out of the windows — with this difference, that the window 
is now a loop-hole, and is called a guillotine. Six 
executions to-day. 

Floreal 3. — Great citizens, good and righteous men, 
now appear uninterruptedly on the guillotine. Those 



ISO MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

who govern should understand that this daily butchery 
cannot but become hateful, and disgust the population. 
The fellows who usually follow my carts, ferocious as 
they are, are getting milder, and, as to the good citizens, 
they now close their doors and windows as soon as I 
appear in the street with the convicts who are to suffer. 
To-day we had to deal with Citizen Lamoignon de 
Malesherbes, the King's former defender ; he was 
arrested at his country-house, with all his family. 
President de Rosambeau, executed the day before yester- 
day, was his son-in-law. His daughter and grand- 
daughter were executed with him to-day. After his 
arrest he was incarcerated in the Port- Libre ; on arriving 
there he met one of his former clerks, who exclaimed : 

* What ! you here, sir 1 ' ' Yes, my friend,' answered 
Malesherbes, smiling ; * I am becoming a scamp in my 
old age, and that is why they put me in prison.' 
D'Espremenil, who was so famous in the old parliament 
of Paris, was also among the convicts. He had recanted 
his republican opinions, and had defended royalty as 
warmly as, at first, he had attacked it. After August 
10 he was badly beaten and wounded by a party of 
insurgents who recognised him. Pethion having come 
to his help, D'Espremenil pointed to his wounds, saying : 

* And I, too, M. Pethion, used to be the people's idol.* 
Malesherbes was firm and even cheerful. As I ap- 
proached him he was winding up his watch; he con- 
tinued to do so, saying : ' One moment, friend.* When 
his hair was cut, and his hands tied, he asked me to 
put his wig on his head again, not, he said, because 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY, 151 

"he was afraid of catching a cold, but because he dis- 
hked cold weather. He then went up to Chateaubriand, 
his granddaughter's husband ; the latter sank down on 
his knees, as also his wife and Madame de Rosambeau, 
Malesherbes' daughter, and they received his blessing. 
He stumbled in descending the staircase of the Concier- 
gerie, and nearly fell ; upon which, speaking to his chil- 
dren, he said : 'This is what one may call a bad omen ; 
a Roman would go in again.' His children sat near him 
in the cart ; their conversation was very touching : they 
assured the old man that they were only too happy to 
die with him. Malesherbes answered with the utmost 
coolness, and was firm to the end. D'Espremenil was 
next to Le Chappelier, also sentenced to death, who, in 
the Constituent Assembly, had been his most obstinate 
opponent. As we were starting, the latter said to his 
companion : * Sir, in a few seconds we shall have the solu- 
tion of a terrible problem.' ' What problem } ' * That of 
knowing who of us two will be hooted by the mob ! ' 
* We shall be hooted both,' answered D'Espremenil. With 
the above died Jacques Geoges Thouret, member of the 
Constituent Assembly ; Frederick Hill, commissioner in 
the department of Bas-Rhin ; Dolphine Antonine de 
Rochechouart, Duchess du Chatelet, Beatrix de Choiseul, 
Duchess of Grammont, Marie Victor Boucher de 
Rochechouart, Viscountess de Pontville, Pierre Par- 
mentier, tax collector, and Louis Philippe Mousset, 
carpenter. 

Floreal 5. — When the King of Prussia entered 
Verdun last year, some of the inhabitants presented him 




1 52 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 

with the keys of the town ; the wives and daught( 
the burghers offered him wreaths of flowers ; they were 
present at a ball given in the enemy's honour by the 
royalist municipality, and the women danced with the 
Prussian officers. The ringleaders have been tried for 
this crime by the Revolutionary Tribunal — thirty-four 
male and female inhabitants have been sentenced ta 
death. The youth of three of the women it was hoped 
might save their lives, but this attenuation of their crime 
was only admitted in favour of Claire Tabouillot and 
Barbe Henry, who were seventeen years of age ; their 
sentence was that they should be shown on the guillotine 
for six hours. Had to execute the thirty-four culprits 
to-day, and a terrible day's work it was. 

Floreal 6. — This morning at ten o'clock Claire 
Tabouillot and Barbe Henry were shown on the guillotine 
on which their mothers and sisters were killed yesterday. 
They were to remain there six hours, but after an hour 
Barbe Henry fainted. Claire Tabouillot was so pale 
that everybody saw she was about to faint also. The 
mob cried * Enough ! ' So Henri, my son, went to the 
House of Justice to inform Fouquier-Tinville of what 
was taking place. Naudin, Fouquier's substitute,. 
ordered him to untie the girls and send them to prison, 
which was done at half-past twelve. At four o'clock 
we executed Mathleu Schweryer, bootmaker; Jacques 
Pommerage, hairdresser, sentenced for singing anti- 
republican songs ; Frangois Bonin, printer, who had 
called Robespierre a conspirator ; Jean Francois Noel> 
potter ; Jeanne Elizabeth Bertault, Nicolas Emmanuel 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY, 153 

Lescoffier, Jean Nicolas Lallemand, priest ; Jean Claude 
Jacquot, lawyer, &c., &c. — twelve in all. 

Flor^al 9. — To-day Citizen Fouquier behaved like a 
man. When he was compelled to sell his office as 
barrister of the Chatelet, the Civil lieutenant, Augrand 
d'AUeray, was very kind to him. Fouquier remembered 
it. Augrand d'AUeray had been imprisoned at Port- 
Libre ; he was an inoffensive old man, and there was 
little chance of his being brought up for judgment. Un- 
fortunately his name was found, by chance, in a list of 
dangerous prisoners. Fouquier proved that he wished 
to save him, for he recommended him to the jurors ; but 
Augrand refused to be let cff. With him were executed 
Aymond Charles Francois de Nicolai*, late president of 
the Grand Council, and thirty-three other convicts, most of 
whom were noblemen and magistrates. 

Floreal 10. — Gamain, the locksmith, who denounced 
Louis XVI., has addressed a petition to the Convention,, 
asking for a reward. The Assembly has granted the 
man's petition. 

Floreal 1 1. — Stanislas de Langanerie, chevalier de St 
Louis, convicted of having been one of the Knights of 
the Dagger, was executed to-day. It is now a long 
time since we had only one convict to put to death, and 
the people hardly took the trouble to look on. The 
Tribunal to-day acquitted fifteen persons. Several among^ 
these lucky persons had, according to provincial custom, 
added the name of Marat to their names. Before dis- 
charging them Dumas, who presided, made them a little 



154 MEMOIRS OF THE S ANSON S, 

speech on the duties imposed by the patronage of the 
great citizen. 

Flo7'cal 12. — We executed seven plebeians and two 
noblemen. 

Flo7^eal 13. — Denys Corbillet, upholsterer, and lieu- 
tenant in the National Guard ; Pierre Diacbn, inspector 
of arms at the arsenal ; and Leonce Pitrat, curate of 
Livemont, suffered to-day. 

Floreal 14, — We led to the Place de la Revolution 
the officers and grenadiers of the battalion 'des Filles 
Saint-Thomas,' who alone, on the loth of August, 
defended the King. There were twelve of them. 
Denys Repoux de Chevagny suffered with them. 

Floreal 17. — To-day the Convention issued a decree 
by which the general farmers are to be tried by the 
Revolutionary Tribunal. Citizen Dupin, a deputy, has 
written the report against them. The twenty millions 
given up by them to the nation cannot save them, I fear. 
They were speaking at the House of Justice of the trial 
of Elizabeth, sister of the King, which is soon to take 
place. Nine executions yesterday ; twenty-three to-day. 

Floreal 19. — The trial of the general farmers was con- 
cluded to-day. Four were acquitted — Sanlot, Delaage 
the younger, Bellefait, and Delatante : all the others, 
twenty-eight in number, were condemned to death, and 
•executed at two o'clock this afternoon. One of them, 
Lavoisier, was a great chemist. He asked for a delay 
of a fortnight in order to achieve a discovery ; but his 
brief was not acceded to. Most of the convicts seemed 




'fn y-O '-'-( 



m 



ATjAM:a*:s:Li2iA3:Ea':i 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY, 155 

to have no regret. Paplllon d'Hauteville said, addressing 
the rnob : * The only thing which annoys me is that I 
have such disreputable heirs.' 

Floreal 20. — Madame Elizabeth was taken to the 
Conciergerie this morning. My son saw her ; she is, he 
told me, very wan and pale. She was reading a prayer- 
book. Fouquier will question her in the course of the night. 

Floreal 22. — I was present during part of Madame 
Elizabeth's trial. Dumas presided ; fiften jurors were in 
the box, and Limdon was prosecutor. An arm-chair was 
given to the King's sister, a favour which surprised me. 
A thousand rumours were circulated concerning this sad 
affair. Some people say that Robespierre visited 
Madame Elizabeth in prison, and hinted that she could 
appear on the throne of her ancestors if she would 
marry him. All this of course is absurd. Others say 
that he was strongly opposed to the trial. If one may 
judge by Dumas' polite manners with the princess, there 
is some likelihood of this being true. Elizabeth answered 
all questions put to her with much calm and pre- 
sence of mind. She denied the charges brought against 
her. It was pretty certain that she would be condemned, 
and the sentence of death passed by the court surprised 
no one. As a conspiracy cannot but be concocted by 
several persons, twenty-three prisoners were convicted 
with the princess.^ 

I left the Hall of Justice to prepare for the execution. 

^ The names given in the original text of the diary are in the present 
case, as in many other places, omitted. They do not add to the interest of 
the executioner's notes, and these nomenclatures are often tedious. — N. Ed. 



156 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

At four o'clock, Desmorets, one of my assistants, brought' 
me the order. I was about to enter Richard's room 
when I saw a lady, who held up a handkerchief to her 
eyes. I recognised the princess, and entered. Richard 
told me that she conversed with his wife, and wanted to- 
know how the Queen died. While Henri and the 
assistants were * preparing ' the other convicts, Richard 
at length told Madame Elizabeth that I was waiting. 
She bade farewell to Richard's wife, and followed him 
to the special room reserved for women. When I 
entered she was already seated, with her hair flowing 
over her shoulders. She was praying with fervour. 
Her hair was auburn, very long and thick. Just before 
I took her hands to bind them, she made the sign of the 
cross. She did not appear to me as thin as Henri told 
me. Her waist was rather thick, like the King's, and 
her face very full. The most apparent trace of imprison- 
ment was her extreme pallor. When I returned with 
her to the other convicts, the latter bowed low to her. 
She spoke to the Lomenies, but I could not catch her 
words. . . . Madame Elizabeth was in the first cart with 
the two Lomenies, the bishop, and the late minister. 
The bishop spoke to her of God, and she listened with 
devotion. 

As leader of the conspiracy she was to be executed 
last ; I had received very stringent orders on that point. 
She remained in the midst of the gendarmes whilst her 
companions were being guillotined. Two of the convicts, 
Montmorin and Lhote, cried, * Vive leRoi ! ' which greatly 
infuriated the mob. The princess heeded not what was 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 157 

going on around her. When her turn came, she went 
up the steps, slightly trembling. She was strapped 
down and guillotined in a moment. Her body was 
buried at Mousseaux, and a quantity of quicklime was 
spread over it. Her companions in death were buried 
in the same cemetery. The inhabitants of the neigh- 
bourhood have discovered that bodies, instead of being 
taken to the cemetery of St. Roch, are now carried to 
their quarter, and they are much discontented. 



158 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



CHAPTER XLL 

CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY— continued. 

The dark sky under which we live is beginning to 
clear up. On the i8th Robespierre made a speech in 
which he was really eloquent, probably because he was. 
sincere. After this speech the same deputies who had 
cheered the abjuration of Gobel, and the scenes which 
took place in consequence, have declared, in a decree, 
that the nation recognises the existence of a Supreme 
Being and the immortality of the soul. Many people 
joke about the Maker which the law now provides ; 
but all those who suffer are in some degree consoled by 
that recognition. Eight executions to-day. 

Floreal 23. — =The hopes I expressed yesterday are 
not yet to be realised. To-day I was ordered by Citizen 
Fouquier to provide myself with additional assistants. 
It is said that the prisoners are conspiring in the different 
prisons of Paris, and that short work must be made of 
them. If they do conspire, there is nothing astonishing. 
I see constantly what takes place in the Conciergerie,. 
and 1 can pretty well guess what occurs elsewhere. In 
every prison there are agents whose sole mission it is ta 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 159. 

make the prisoners talk. They tell them that they can 
perhaps obtain their liberty ; and then, when the unsus- 
pecting prisoners answer, the spy denounces them. I 
have engaged sixteen new assistants. They are orga- 
nising the service of the guillotine as if it were to last 
for ever. Some of my assistants must now remain in 
permanency at the Conciergerie. The clerks of the 
court will now go to the Place de la Revolution in turns. 
Eight executions to-day. 

Floreal 24. — Executed Etienne Mauger, monk of the 
Abbey of Caen ; Felix Garde and Frangois Peton, post- 
men ; George Souen, soldier ; Jacques Rollet d'Avaux,. 
nobleman ; Jean-Baptiste Ubeleski, &c. — nine in all. 

Floreal 25. — Executed Charles Auguste Prevost 
d'Arlincour, general farmer, father of the D'Arlincour 
who was guillotined on the 19th. He was seventy- 
six years old. The sans-culottes are more infuriated 
against those who are said to have sophisticated their 
tobacco than if they had turned their bread into stone. 
They had no pity for the old man. Besides, it Avould be 
imprudent for any one to show any sympathy for any 
prisoner. The number of spies who usually escort us 
has been doubled since the inhabitants of the Rue St. 
Honore have taken to closing their doors and windows 
whenever a cortege passes. Seven men and a woman 
suffered with D'Arlincour. 

Floreal 26. — Pierre Alexandre Joseph Chiavary, cap- 
tain in the army ; Antoine Baptiste Tassin, lawyer ; 
Ernest Meynier, late deputy ; Andre Fissard, solicitor ; 
Henri Henry, clerk of the Tribunal of Newarden ; Marc 



x6o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Blass, grocer, all convicted of conspiracy against the 
sovereignty of the people ; and Frederic Bernard, draper 
at Sens, were executed to-day. 

Floreal 29. — The son of Bonaree-Corberon, ex-presi- 
dent, executed on the ist of this month, was guillotined 
to-day, and with him twelve other convicts. This morn- 
ing I received the visit of a maniac, who asked me to 
look at a projected guillotine with three knives, which 
he had invented. He really amused me. His pride and 
his hatred against aristocrats were really very comical. 
His discovery, he said, would consolidate the Republic. 
He left me, and went to Fouquier-Tinville. 

Prairial 3. — Leflot, a manager of the customs, was 
beheaded to-day. In Nivose last, the wife of a royalist 
was wandering with her baby in the neighbourhood of 
Tregnier, suffering from cold and hunger, and risking 
starvation every day. No one cared to give her shelter, 
or even a mouthful of bread. A brave exciseman did 
what others were afraid to do : he concealed the woman 
and her child in the hollow of a rock, and gave them 
clothes, straw, and food. Good sentiments are as 
contagious as bad ones. The other excisemen re- 
marked the frequent disappearances of their comrade, 
and soon found out his secret. They resolved to help 
the poor woman, in spite of the laws and decrees which 
ordered them to be relentless against royalists ; and 
one night she was sent on board an English ship off the 
coast. Unfortunately they did not hold their tongues, 
and their act of charity became known at large. The 
captain wished to know who were the culprits, but none 



I 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY, i6i 

Avould reveal the secret ; and when Leflot threatened to 
pick out a number of his men at random and shoot them, 
they only laughed, and answered that he was too good a 
fellow to suit the action to the word. Captain Leflot was, 
as they said, a good and brave man ; and he left the 
■offence unpunished, hoping that it would be overlooked 
by the authorities. His generosity forfeited his life. 
Two persons were executed with him. 

Prairial^. — The despotism of the Committee has just 
been consecrated by murder. Two days ago a man tried 
to murder Collot d'Herbois ; yesterday a girl tried to stab 
Robespierre. Collot's assailant was a native of Auvergne, 
named Ladmiral. He lived in the same house as Collot 
•(42 Rue Favart). It is said that he intended to kill 
either Robespierre or Collot — perhaps both, if he could. 
He went to the Convention, intending to strike the two 
deputies there ; but Robespierre and Collot were absent, 
so he returned home, and waited for the latter. Collot 
returned at one o'clock a.m. ; Ladmiral, who lived on 
the fifth landing, was at the bottom of the staircase. 
He saw Collot's servant preparing to light her master 
up, and fired four pistols at him without effect. Collot, 
who is brave, made for the murderer, pursued him up 
the stairs, and tried to break his door open ; but a patrol 
came up, and Collot was prevented with difficulty from 
entering first and arresting Ladmiral with his own hands. 
Citizen Geffroy, who seized the murderer, was wounded 
by him. The attempt on Robespierre's life was less 
serious. The girl \yho intended to kill him was so 
earnest in her entreaties to be shown into his presence 
VOL. II. M 



i62 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

that she was arrested. She was searched, and in her 
pockets were found two pistols and a dagger. These 
two crimes to some extent confirm the rumours that 
there is an extensive conspiracy to murder the principal 
members of the Convention. To-day we executed Jean- 
Baptiste Durand, public functionary ; Frangois Paulin^ 
teacher; Jean Antoine Pascal, lieutenant of gendarmes ; 
Theodore d'Aumongeville, lieutenant in the army;, 
Simon Tisserand, footman of the late Duke du Chatelet ;, 
Jean-Baptiste Gautier, &c. 

Prairial 6 and 7. — The name of the girl who intended 
to murder Robespierre is Cecile Renaud. She is only 
twenty years of age. The Convention has issued a 
bulletin concerning the health of Citizen Gefifroy, who 
was wounded in the Collot affair. The martyrdom to 
which Robespierre and Collot were exposed excites the 
envy of many of their colleagues. Vouland, among 
others, alleges that a woman tried to murder him. This 
woman is to appear to-day before the Tribunal. There 
is, however, every reason to believe that she never con- 
templated the act in question. Patriots attribute to the 
English the attempts against Robespierre and Collot. 
They charge them with inciting to the destruction of 
the members of the Convention. The Convention has 
just passed a decree which enacts that no English and 
Hanoverian soldiers shall be made prisoners. What will 
the French soldiers do } 

Prairial 8. — The motions of the Jacobins and the 
Convention have an effect on the decisions of the Tri- 
bunal. To-day out of twenty-six prisoners only twa 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 163 

were acquitted, and we guillotined the others. Among 
these was one who richly deserved death. Jourdan, 
surnamed Coupe-tete by the inhabitants of Avignon, 
had committed the most horrible crimes. He acted as 
Schneider did, and excited the utmost terror in and 
around Avignon. He showed more bravery on the 
scaffold than Schneider. Twenty- three were guillotined 
after him. 

Prairial 9. — The daggers of Citizeness Cecile Renaud 
are now reduced to two small knives, with which she 
could have hurt no one except herself. However, as 
she said that she wanted to see a tyrant, there is little 
hope of saving her. A great many arrests have been 
made. The Conciergerie received over fifty inmates to- 
day. Executed fourteen peasants. 

Prairial 11. — Twelve executions to-day. I am told 
that a few days ago, Dumas, Fouquier, Brochet, Renaudin, 
and others were dining at Meot's, and that, being elated 
with wine, they called Meot up, and told him that he was 
about to be arrested and tried by the Tribunal. Poor 
Meot went down half dead with terror. Fortunately 
Barrere, who sometimes dines at Meot's, caire in. The 
affrighted restaurateur threw himself at his feet, and im- 
plored his protection. As people were looking on, Bar- 
rere told Meot that the men upstairs were only joking, 
as indeed they were ; but in the evening Dumas and 
Fouquier were summoned by the Committee of Public 
Safety, and severely reprimanded. 

Prairial 12. — Thirteen convicts to-day. 

Prairial 13. — Same number as yesterday. 
M 2 



1 64 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Prairial 14. — Agents of the Committee of Public 
Safety now mingle with those who follow our carts to 
the scaffold. Every day they draw up a report of what 
has taken place around the guillotine. If their accounts 
are truthful, those who send them mus-t not be satisfied. 
The people are getting more and more disgusted with this 
eternal butchery. Yesterday I heard cries of ' Enough ! ' 
and to-day for the first time there was one solitary hiss. 
Great preparations are taking place for the Festival of the 
Supreme Being on the 20th ; the ceremony will take 
place in the National Garden, and as the corUge is to pass 
through the Place de la Revolution, I have received 
orders to remove the guillotine on the 19th. 
.^ Prairial 16. — The aspect of the Conciergerie has 
much altered of late. When the Revolutionary Tribunal 
began to sit, it had the appearance of a camp : the 
prisoners were animated ; they walked about, laughed, 
sang, and talked ; the greater number cared little for life. 
When, on returning from the guillotine, I used to tell 
one of the turnkeys what had taken place, and when he 
transmitted the news to them, I could hear them cheer- 
ing those who had died pluckily, and drinking in honour 
of those of their companions who were set free. But 
since Danton's execution, the Conciergerie looked what 
it used to be before the Revolution — the darkest and 
gloomiest of prisons. The fever is passed, and now the 
prisoners are mournful. Riviere showed me a man 
named Rougane, whose four brothers were guillotined, 
and who is to be tried to-morrow — and be guillotined 
also, no doubt. This m.orning I executed the Marquis 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 165 

de Bieville and his son, and fifteen other convicts. Among 
them were a mother, Madame de Goursac, and her son ; 
the former was over eighty years old. 

Prairial 17. — Citizen Robespierre was for the second 
time elected president of the Convention. Nevertheless, 
it appears that Billaud-Varennes, Ballot, Vadier, and 
others are secretly plotting to overthrow him. Barrere, 
who hesitates between the two parties, has given some 
consistency to these rumours, by saying in a report that 
the foreigner speaks of us and of our soldiers as the people 
of Robespierre, Robespierre^ s soldiers, Robespierre^ s govern- 
ment, &c. Robespierre is very indignant. Those who 
hope for some return to clemency affirm that he will 
break with the Terrorists, and play the part he would 
not allow Danton to assume. They say that he will 
pronounce the word ' clemency ' in his speech to the 
people on the day of the Festival of the Supreme Being. 
Coming from him this word would be law ; he is all- 
powerful. The seventy-three deputies incarcerated on 
May 21 live, by him ; his moderation towards them 
ensures him a compact majority in what is called the 
Plain of the Convention. He is master of the Commune, 
of the Tribunal, and of the Jacobins. He can be merci- 
ful if such is his will. 

Prairial 18. — Days follow each other and are alike. 
Twenty-one more convicts to-day. There are some 
people who say that one gets used to blood ; this is 
not true, when this blood is human blood. I do not 
speak of myself, but of my assistants, whom I ob- 
serve. Two of them have been with me for the last 



1 66 MEMOIRS OF THE S ANSON S. 

twelve years, four others were butchers' boys ; there 
are at least two who are not worth a rope to hang them' 
with, and yet there is not one who is not moved after 
a wholesale execution. The public perceives nothing, 
but often I see their legs tremble. When everything 
is finished, and they only see corpses around them on 
the scaffold, they look astonished and uneasy. If such 
is their impression what must be that of the people ? 
Lavalette, formerly count and officer in the Guards, 
was executed to-day. He was imprisoned at La 
Bourbe with his wife, and was playing at battledore and 
shuttlecock with her in the courtyard when a turnkey 
came up and ordered Lavalette to follow him. * What 
for .? ' asked Lavalette. ' To go to the Tribunal, and 
from thence to the guillotine ! ' answered the brute. The 
shock was so sudden that Madame de Lavalette lost her 
senses. With Lavalette were executed Joseph Aboulin, 
lieutenant in the dragoons ; Joseph Tournier, priest ; 
Theodore Delany and Patrick Roden, Irishmen, de- 
serters ; Jean Foiret, public scribe ; Etienne Felix de 
Forceville, nobleman ; William Newton, Englishman, 
colonel in the armies of the Republic ; Mercien d'Aube- 
ville, nobleman, and judge at Pithiviers ; Antoinette 
Jacquemot, laundress ; Dolphine Elizabeth Marchais ; 
Emma Marguerite Guillier, &c. — twenty in all. 



I 



1 67 



CHAPTER XLII. 

CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY— continued. 

Prairial 21. — The festival of the Supreme Being took 
place yesterday. Flowers were brought from miles 
around in honour of the Divinity ; but the pontiff did 
not pronounce the words of clemency which were ex- 
pected. We removed the scaffold, and this gave some 
credence to rumours of amnesty. The hideous cess- 
pool of blood which lies under the scaffold was covered 
with long and strong planks. Brilliant as the proceed- 
ings were, the day was not exactly a success. They 
say that it was the festival of discord, not of the Supreme 
Being. If Robespierre did not claim the finest privi- 
lege of royalty, clemency, he at least appropriated 
its haughty formalities. He is accused of having made 
the Convention wait for him, with having preceded the 
representatives, as if to show that they were only a gang 
of inferiors ; even the elegance of his dress and the pro- 
portions of the banquet which he held are criticised, and 
for some irrepressible republicans these are unmistak- 
able tokens of his royalist leanings. 

Prairial 22. — To-day the Tribunal began the trial of 
the suspected people sent from the departments by the 



i68 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

representatives in mission. Thirteen inhabitants of the 
town of Corne appeared this morning. Ten were con- 
demned, as were also three other prisoners. Executed 
the whole of them. 

Prairial 25. — At last the brief of the inhabitants 
of the Rue St. Honore has been granted. The day 
before yesterday, as I was going to bed, I was called to 
the House of Justice, where Royer, the substitute,, 
ordered me to clear the Place de la Revolution of the 
scaffold, and to take it to the Place de la Bastille. The 
carpenters worked all night. The public of this new 
quarter has no liking for executions, for as soon as we 
appeared in the Rue St. Antoine with three carts full, 
we were hissed and otherwise ill received. The in- 
habitants of the Quartier St. Antoine are not so timid 
as those of the Place de la Revolution, and they made- 
no secret of their disgust ; when the execution took 
place almost everybody had gone away. The Com- 
mittee have determined not to renew the experiment,. 
and under pretence that the Place de la Bastille is too 
good a place for aristocratic blood, they have directed the- 
scaffold to be transferred to the Place du Trone. So we 
passed another sleepless night. We are now to send the 
corpses to the St. Marguerite Cemetery. 

Prairial 26. — The Revolutionary Tribunal has no- 
shame. Last month it acquitted Freteau, councillor 
of the parliament of Paris. This indulgence proved 
disagreeable to Fouquier-Tinville, but he soon found; 
means to correct what in his conviction could only be 
the result of a mistake. He declared that the affair was. 






CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 169 

not legal, and made an order for a new trial. As a 
matter of course, Freteau could not escape death, for 
Fouquier's hint to the jury was pretty plain, and he 
was executed to-day, together with thirty-five other 
convicts ; twenty-six of the number were councillors of 
the parliament of Toulouse. 

P^'airial 27. — To-day I had trustworthy information 
concerning the body-guards, without which, it is said, 
Citizen Robespierre never goes out. I met him in a 
very out-of-the-way place, and his satellites consisted of 
a white-and-black dog. Martin, my assistant, proposed 
to me to see to this day's work ; I accepted, for it was a 
long time since I promised to take my nieces to the 
country, and I was glad to get out of sight of the guillo- 
tine. We went through Clichy and got into the fields. 
The little girls romped in the fields, and I ran about 
with them ; but my old legs soon had enough of this, 
and I sat down on the side of the road. Presently I 
saw a citizen, with a dog, who was coming up. The 
citizen looked at the children, who were trying to reach- 
some wild roses in a hedge, and obligingly came to their 
help. He picked the flowers, and divided them between 
the two little girls. I saw the little ones kiss the citizen. 
They came up to me talking and smiling. It was then 
that I recognised the stranger. He wore a dark blue 
coat, yellow breeches, and a white waistcoat. His hair 
was powdered and carefully combed, and he held his 
hat in his hand. His gait was stiff, his head was slightly 
thrown backwards, and his face wore a look of gaiety 
which surprised me. Citizen Robespierre asked me if 



170 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the children were mine. I replied that they were my 
nieces ; he congratulated me on their beauty. Mary 
made a small nosegay and offered it to him ; he took it 
and stuck it in his buttonhole. He then asked her name, 
so, he said, as to remember her when the flowers should 
fade. The poor child not only gave her Christian, but 
added the other, whereupon Robespierre's face instantly 
changed. He said to me in a dry and haughty voice. 

* You are } ' I bowed. For a few seconds he was 

thoughtful ; he was evidently struggling against a repul- 
sion which he could not master. At length he bent 
down, kissed the children very tenderly, called his dog, 
and went away without looking at me. 

Prairial 28. — At present the prisons contain 7,321 
prisoners, but the gaols are being rapidly emptied. They 
have begun with Bicetre, thirty-seven inmates of which 
were executed to-day ; others are waiting for trial. 
This selection of common criminals was premeditated ; 
it is hoped thus to extinguish all interest on behalf of 
the political victims that are to follow on the guillotine. 
The rumour is again spread that there is agitation 
among prisoners. We know what that means. How- 
beit this is what took place at Bicetre: Two locksmiths 
named Lucas and Ballin — both convicted for theft — had 
planned an escape ; they received from without a 
file with which they cut the iron bars of a window. 
But they were imprudent enough to say to their com- 
panions that they should be free on the morrow, and to 
propose to a man of the name of Voulagnos to escape 
with them. Voulagnos was a spy ; he reported the pro- 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 171 

jected escape, and the whole affair was discovered. This 
gave rise to the ingenious idea of inventing a plot among 
the prisoners of Bicetre, whereof the object was to 
escape in order to murder the members of the Conven- 
tion. All the prisoners designated by the spy Voulagnos 
were tried and executed. 

Prairial 29. — A terrible day's work ! The guillotine 
devoured fifty-four victims. My strength is at an end, and 
I almost fainted away. A caricature has been shown to 
me in w^hich I am represented guillotining myself in the 
middle of a heath covered with headless bodies and 
bodiless heads. I do not boast of extraordinary squeam- 
ishness ; I have seen too much blood in my life not to 
be callous. If what I feel is not pity, it must be a de- 
rangement of my nerves. Perhaps I am punished by 
the Almighty for my cowardly obedience to mock 
justice. For some time I have been troubled with 
terrible visions. I am taken with fever as soon as I 
enter the Conciergerie ; it is like fire flowing under my 
skin. Abstemious as I am, it seems to me as if 
I were intoxicated — the people who are around me, the 
furniture, the walls, dance and whirl around me, and my 
ears are full of strange noises. I struggle against this 
feeling, but in vain. My hands tremble, and tremble 
50 that I have been compelled to give up cutting the 
hair of the doomed prisoners. They are before me 
weeping and praying, and I cannot convince myself of 
the reality of what is going on. I lead them to death, 
and I cannot believe that they are going to die. It is like 
a, dream which I strive to dispel. I follow the prepara- 



172 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



\ 



tions for the tragedy, and I have no idea what is ta 
occur next, and I discharge my functions with the 
mechanical regularity of an automaton. Then comes 
the thump of the knife which reminds me of the horrible 
reality. I cannot hear it now without a shudder. A 
kind of rage then takes possession of me. Forgetting that 
I ought to blame myself more than others, I abuse the 
gendarmes who, sabre in hand, have escorted the victims ; 
I abuse the people who look on without raising a finger 
in their defence ; I abuse the sun which lightens all this. 
At length I leave the scaffold, disposed to weep, al- 
though I cannot find a tear. Never were these sensa- 
tions more violent than to-day. Ladmiral and Cecile 
Renaud were among the convicts of to-day, and the 
others were their so-called accomplices. 

Since the 23rd the Committee of Public Safety sends 
lists of death to the Tribunal. The arrest of Naudin 
and Antonnelle, two jurors who would not admit that 
revolutionary right was above right of justice, shows 
that this Tribunal is no more than a sham. While he 
preaches against indulgence at the Jacobins, Robespierre 
nevertheless abstains from being present when these lists 
are being drawn up — that is to say, that he shirks the 
odium, so as to be able to show that he is guiltless of 
bloodshed. The other members of the Committee are 
aware of his tactics, and they gave as much importance 
as they could to the trial of the * murderers of Robes- 
pierre,' thereby trying to sap his reputation by calling 
attention to his omnipotency. 

In this affair they introduced two women, the St. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 173 

Amaranthes, who were acquainted with Robespierre the 
younger ; and they spread the rumour that one of these 
women was Maximilian Robespierre's mistress, and that 
MaximiHan insisted on her death because she surprised 
the secret of his aspirations to royalty. 

All this was being whispered around the scaffold ; 
but it was not this wily combination of the Committee 
which produced the deepest impression. Citizeness 
St. Amaranthe held at No. 50 of the Palais Egalite a 
gaming house, frequented by many influential men, and 
an equal number of adventurers — Danton, Herault de 
Sechelles, Lacroix, Robespierre the younger, Desfieux, 
Proly, and the famous Baron de Batz, whom the police 
could never lay hands upon. Madame St. Amaranthe's 
daughter was young and pretty. When mother and 
daughter were arrested, their servants and friends were 
also taken. Maria Grandmaison, an actress of the 
Italian Theatre, and Marie Nicole Bouchard, her ser- 
vant, were of the number. The latter was only eighteen 
years old, and she was so thin and delicate that she did 
not appear more than fourteen. When the poor little 
girl held out her hands to Lariviere, he turned to Des- 
morets, my head assistant, and said : ' Surely this is a 
joke .'* ' Desmorets shrugged his shoulders, and it was 
the little one who, smiling through her tears, answered : 
* No, sir, it is serious ; ' whereupon Lariviere threw down 
his cords, and exclaimed : ' Let some one else bind her. 
It is not my profession to execute children ! ' She was 
calm and resigned. There was a delay in starting. 
Red shirts had been ordered only for Ladmiral, Sainte- 



174 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

nax, and the four Renauds.^ An order came at the last 
moment directing all the ctdprits to be arrayed in the 
same garment. While the shirts were being fetched, 
little Nicole Bouchard sat down at her mistress's feet, 
and tried to console her. She asked leave to be with 
her in the same cart. I really believed that if she had 
begged for life, more than one would have freed her, and 
offered to take her place. What we felt the people felt 
also. The crowd was very large, owing to the propor- 
tions of the execution. The hundreds of gendarmes 
who escorted us, and the cannon which followed in the 
rear, had induced all Parisians to come out. Five or six 
young and pretty women were in the first cart, and their 
fate excited pity ; but when poor little Nicole Bouchard 
was seen there was an explosion of indignation. Cries 
of ' No children ! ' rose numerous and loud. In the 
Faubourg St. Antoine I could see the women weeping. 
I was almost overpowered by this scene. I had looked 
at Nicole Bouchard at the Conciergerie, and her eyes, to 
my thinking, seemed to say : ' You will not kill me ! ' And 
yet she is dead now. She was the ninth. When she 
passed before me, I had to struggle with an inspiration, 
which whispered in my ear : ' Smash up the guillotine, 
and do not allow this child to die ! ' 

My assistants pushed her on towards the knife. I 
turned away ; my legs trembled, and I turned sick. It 
was Martin who had charge of the execution. He said 
to me : 

^ The red shirt was the garment of parricides. 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 175 

' You are unwell. Go home, and trust to me for the 
rest.' 

I did not answer, and left the scaffold. I was in a 
fever, and so scared that at the corner of the Rue Saint- 
onge, when a woman stopped me and begged, I thought 
the little girl was before me. This evening I thought I 
saw spots of blood on the tablecloth as I was sitting 
down to dinner, 

Pi'airial 30. — No executions to-day. Remained at 
home, and read the papers. Robespierre's enemies have 
found another weapon to strike him with. There are 
some distracted women who recite prayers in his honour. 
If they could only persuade the masses that he suffers 
and encourages this, it would be all over with him ; and 
that is just what Vadier tried to do in the sitting of the 
27th. A police officer employed by the Committee has 
found out an old woman who pretends to be a prophetess^ 
and who announces the advent of a new saviour. This 
saviour is Robespierre. Vadier made the most of this 
discovery. 

Messidor i. — From the ist to the 4th of Messidor 
ninety-two convicts have been put to death. 

The dead are beginning to frighten the living. The 
inhabitants of the Montreuil section, where we now send 
the dead bodies, have complained. They urged that 
the stench is horrible, and that, unless the small ceme- 
tery of St. Marguerite be closed, serious consequences 
cannot but ensue. After much hesitation the Com- 
mune has selected a new place for the burial of the exe- 



176 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

'Cuted. This is the garden of the old convent of Picpus. 
The spot seems to be ill chosen ; the soil is composed of 
pure clay, and it cannot absorb what is deposited in it. 
But, thank Heaven ! this is no business of mine. My 
task ends on the scaffold. The Commune pays for 
* crows' (undertakers), who receive the bodies from my 
assistants and bury them. Desmorets, my head assis- 
tant, goes with them. Whatever is found in the pockets 
■of the convicts is taken to the Commune ; the clothes, 
&c., are sent to the charities. To-day the Tribunal 
condemned a man under rather curious circumstances. 
His name was Doyen, and he was a wood merchant. 
He was wealthy and parsimonious. His fortune was 
much envied by his neighbours, and he was so afraid of 
getting into trouble that for a whole year he did not 
speak. He lived alone, and communicated by signs 
with those he had to deal with. When he was asked the 
time, he took out his watch and showed it to you with- 
out a word. This singular reserve was taken for pride, 
and his enemies became legion. One night the Tree of 
Liberty, planted in the public square of the town in 
which he lived, was uprooted, and, as a matter of course, 
the crime was attributed to Citizen Doyen. His house 
was searched. While the soldiers were searching the 
first floor, a gendarme was about to take up a log of 
w^ood and throw it into the grate, when Doyen rushed 
forward, exclaiming : ' Not this one ! ' This excited 
suspicion. An axe was procured, and, when the log was 
split, a number of golden louis dropped on the floor. 
This circumstance settled his fate. He recovered his 



I 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. 177 

powers of speech before the Tribunal, but too late to 
save his life. 

Messidor 6. — Fear of the guillotine has induced a 
prisoner of Les Madelonnettes to hang himself. Before 
tying the noose he wrote in the following terms, to Robes- 
pierre : 'Virtuous Robespierre, provide for my wife, for 
now she has no means of livelihood.' This is the second 
prisoner who has commited suicide. The late valet-de- 
ckambre of the Duke de Creqy, one Cuni, cut his 
throat with a razor a few days ago. Executed twenty- 
three men and four women. One of the men, a deserter 
of the name of Notter, had a dog. The animal was 
much attached to its master, and it was the cause of his 
arrest. The dog followed him to prison, and remained 
at the door until the carts came out of the yard. It 
recognised its master, and, barking with joy, followed us 
to the Place du Trone. When the soldier alighted he 
patted the poor beast and asked several persons to take 
and keep it ; but no one dared. When the time for 
separation came, the dog would not leave its master, and 
followed him up to the platform. One of my men threw 
it down ; but the dog rushed up the steps again, and 
began to howl dismally ; whereupon a gendarme pinned 
it with his bayonet. Strange to say, the people, who 
can stand and see Christians murdered, took the dog's 
part. Stones were aimed at the gendarme, and he 
narrowly escaped with his life. A workman took up 
the dog, and carried it away. 

Messidor 7. — There was a time when the women 
were, as a rule, stronger and pluckier than the men. 
VOL. II. N 



178 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Not so now. They weep, tremble, and beg for mercy. 
We have had a fearful day. The Faubourg St. Antoine 
cannot forget it. My carts contained twenty-three 
women of different ages and social standing. Each turn 
of the wheel was marked by a sob. Their shrieks were 
awful to hear. The crowd dispersed, and we made our 
way along deserted streets. My men were more than 
usually dark and sullen. One of them said : * They com- 
pel us to disgrace the guillotine.' I was not left to 
suffer alone to-day. 

Messidor 8. — The other prisoners of Bicetre, who 
were compromised by Valagnos' denunciation, were 
guillotined to-day. Among these was Osselin, a deputy 
of the National Assembly. He had given shelter to one 
Madame Charry, an emigrt^e^ in a country house situated 
at Marly. This generous deed at first cost him his 
liberty, and afterwards his life. He confided in a ruffian 
whom he believed to be his friend. The man saw 
Madame Charry, fell in love with her, and threatened 
her with immediate arrest if she did not return his affec- 
tion. As a matter of course, Madame Charry refused ;, 
and on the following day she was arrested, tried, and 
executed. 

As the law which punishes with death whoever shall 
shelter an enemy of the Republic was not yet passed, 
Osselin was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and 
sent to Bicetre, where he was fain to mingle with crimi- 
nals of the worst class. His former position, and, above 
all, his connection with Danton's party, pointed him out 
to those who had the mission to clear the prisons, and 
he was arraigned. Osselin, it appears, resolved not tc> 



CHARLES HENRI SANSON'S DIARY. lyc) 

appear on the guillotine. He found a large nail in the 
ceiling of his cell, and struck himself three times with 
it ; but he survived his wounds. When we came to 
fetch Osselin the doctor of the Conciergerie humour- 
ously observed that it was useless to take him to the 
scaffold, as he had but a few moments to live. Never- 
theless we carried him away. Poor Osselin called for 
death, and tore away his bandages. The doctor, who 
accompanied us, told him that he need have no fear, 
that the guillotine was a long way off, and that he 
might possibly die on the way ; and, in fact, when we 
reached the Place du Trone, Osselin was pale and stiff, 
and to all appearance dead. I felt so sure of it that 
I told Desmorets to throw a blanket over the corpse, 
and leave it in the cart ; but the doctor, who was still 
with us, said that Osselin was still alive, and that the 
sentence should therefore be carried out. As I was 
hesitating, he said to me : * Fool, if he is dead, of what 
consequence is it whether he reaches the other world 
with or without his head "t Think of what might happen 
to us if he were still alive ! ' Osselin was carried to the 
weigh-plank, but not a muscle moved when the knife 
came down ; and I am firmly persuaded that we guillo- 
tined a corpse. 

My grandfather's diary here comes to an end. He 
gives no warning of his intention to discontinue this 
daily record of his bloody mission, but I think I can 
explain this sudden^conclusion. He was a strong and 
callous man ; but few, even among the hardest, could 

N 2 



i8o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

have resisted the work which the Revolutionary Tribunal 
provided for him. His constitution gave way, and his 
spirits also. He had a violent attack of delirmm 
tremens after the execution of Robespierre's so-called 
murderers. Martin, his brother, who usually took his 
place whenever there was occasion for doing so, per- 
ceived that the old executioner was breaking down. 
He was pale, agitated, and uneasy. The slightest noise 
made him shudder, and he avoided his relatives. He no 
longer related to his wife and children the scenes in 
which he acted the chief part ; and his usual state of 
mind was a dark moodiness, which he retained to his last 
day. This easily explains the interruption of his diary. 
The reader may have noticed that his last notes are far 
less precise and minute than the first portion of his in- 
formation ; in the last days of Prairial he seldom men- 
tions the names of victims. 

True it is that, at the time, the guillotine was com- 
7nercially organised, and when its chief functionary did 
not score down the names of the guillotined, one of 
his assistants acted as his book-keeper. Desmorets, 
whose name Charles Henri Sanson frequently mentions, 
and whose grandson is now executioner at Bordeaux, 
joined the duties of clerk to that of chief assistant. I 
have in my hands a complete list, drawn up by him, of 
all the persons guillotined during the Revolution ; and 
as the number of the victims has been unduly exag- 
gerated, I have, for the behoof of my readers, made a 
resume oi the executions that took place in Paris during 
the revolutionary period. This resume is affixed here- 



CHARLES HENRI ^SANSON'S DIARY. 



i8i 



.... ^ 

1 


CO ON 

o 


VO CO 


S 

D 
1^ 


covo t^l-l^^o^^^ O 

coco C^ c^ CO w i-i 


1 

w 
1 


From 70 to 80 years 

Above 80 years 

Men 

Women 


1 

5 

w 

J 
1 

1 

1 




Gentlefolks of both sexes without profession 

Officers and soldiers 

Writers and journalists of both sexes . 

Artists 

Tradesmen of both sexes ..... 

Artisans 

Servants of both sexes 

Labourers and peasants 

sexes : 2918. 


6 

Iz; 




6 
1 


VO m^O On ON lO CO On "S 

c^ CO Tir ^ 


1 

w 

4) 

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1 



.2 

1 

§ 

1 


Members of the Church, Bishops and Archbishops 
Marshals of France and Lieutenant-Generals 
Magistrates, members of the ancient Parliaments 
Ecclesiastics, priests, monks, &c. 
Members of the Constituent and Legislative 

Assemblies ...... 

Members of the Convention .... 

Members of the Commune .... 

Liberal professions, financiers, barristers, doctors, 

lawyers, functionaries .... 

Total f 








(1) . . . _ 


Under 18 years of ag 
From 18 to 20 years 
From 20 ,, 25 ,, 
From 25 ,, 50 ,, 
From 50 ,, 60 ,, 
From 60 ,, 70 ,, 



[82 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSON S. 



CHAPTER XLIII. 

MY FATHER GOES INTO THE ARTILLERY.— HIS MS. 

I MUST now beg leave to return for a time to our family- 
affairs. My father left me a MS. account of his services 
in the artillery, which I will presently give, as a curious 
illustration of the importance the revolutionists proposed 
to give to the functions of executioner. This account 
contains some interesting observations on the change of 
opinions which had taken place in favour of the execu- 
tioner. The Republic treated us better than the 
Monarchy : it had too often recourse to our services not 
to reward us for the trouble. We were no longer 
shunned and despised ; representatives of the people, 
club orators, celebrated sans-cidottes fraternised with the 
executioner. At one time there was a question of 
devising a glorious name worthy of the grandeur of our 
mission. It was very seriously proposed to call the 
executioner the ^ Avenger of the People,' to dress him in 
an imposing costume whereby all could identify him as 
one of the most important functionaries of the nation. 
David, the great painter, called on my grandfather and 
showed him a drawing of a costume he had specially 



MV FATHER GOES INTO THE ARTILLERY. 183 

•devised for him. Charles Henri declined the honour, 
and expressed a wish to dress just as other people did. 

But this was but one of the slightest favours bestowed 
•on my grandfather; the people often cheered him on his 
way to the scaffold, and many ran up to him after 
executions offering to drink with him, and so forth. 

I now leave the pen to my father, whose account 
requires no further introduction : 

* It was on a Sunday of the month of October 1793, 
the call was being beaten, and citizens of our quarter 
were hurrying to the usual place of meeting, the St. 
Laurent Church. I went there myself After the 
sitting, as I was conversing with some friends, I was 
accosted by a numerous party, composed of working 
men. One of the men addressed me in the following 
terms : 

* "Citizen Henri Sanson, we are the first party of the 
men who are to form the new company of gunners of 
this section. We are about to elect our officers, and as 
we know you to be a good patriot, we shall be much 
flattered if you will join us." 

'This request surprised me very much. At first I 
was strongly tempted to refuse ; but I did not care to 
give offence to my would-be friends, and I may as well 
confess that I was gratified at their politeness. I made 
a few objections, but they were soon overruled, and I 
yielded with a good grace. 

* My new companions forthwith took me to the hall 
where the election of officers was to take pla.ce. One 
can imagine my surprise when, on my arrival, I found 



1 84 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 



\ 



myself elected b^^ acclamation president of the electoral 
assembly before I knew precisely what I was about \ 
The vote for the rank of captain began, and my surprise fl 
exceeded all bounds when I perceived that everybody 
voted for me. I was both flattered and moved, but,, 
conscious as I was of my inablHty to discharge func- 
tions of which I had not the slightest notion, I attempted 
to decline the honour. My modesty, however, was of no 
avail, and I was elected. My uncle, who was present,, 
was made a sub-lieutenant, and one of my Intimate 
friends was appointed sergeant. My friend, whose 
name was Masson, was beside himself with joy. He 
was witty, sensible, and well-educated. We were of the 
same age, and soon became very Intimate ; he came 
to dine at my father's every Sunday — the only day 
on which my father could receive the few friends it Is 
possible to have in our profession. It was after one 
of these dinners that the adventure I have just related 
happened to us. 

*■ Masson was not of our section ; he lived In the lie 
Saint-Louis, and he was in fear that this circumstance, 
might prevent him from accepting his promotion. But 
he was soon reassured. 

* As for me, I went to a sergeant of my company who 
had been a gunner and had some good notions of 
artillery ; the good man gave me lessons, and what he 
knew he very soon imparted to me. But It was all very 
well to know how to obey ; the question was, how could 
I learn how to command .'* But where there's a will 
there's a way. I took lessons from other friends of mine^ 



MV FATHER GOES INTO THE ARTILLERY. i8s 

and at last I was enabled to undertake my command- 
without exposing myself too much to sarcasm. More- 
over the Government took good care to perfect our 
military education, and when we were sufficiently pro- 
ficient, our four companies — those of the North, Bondy,. 
Bonne-Nouvelle, and Mauconseil — were assembled on 
the Boulevard Bondy, where they manoeuvred twice a 
week. Meanwhile, by means of a few good breakfasts,. 
I persuaded our instructor to give me private lessons. 

'The Government proposed to make serious use of 
us. While our organisation was being provided for, a 
pay -was awarded to the men. It was thus graduated : 
30 sols for privates, 
45 sols for corporals, 

3 livres 15 sols for sergeants, 

4 livres 10 sols for the sub-lieutenant, 

6 livres for the lieutenant, 

7 livres 10 sols for the captain. 

* As may be seen, I was better off than the others. 

* This state of things lasted three months, at the end 
of which we were definitely organised after the model of 
the dismounted gendarmes. Our companies were com- 
posed of fifty-one men fully equipped. 

* We did not wait long for active service, and while 
some companies were being sent to La Vendee, and 
others to Lyons, mine was sent, together with another 
company styled "Des Droits de I'Homme," into La 
Brie, where an insurrection had just occurred. 

* The alarm was unfounded ; for if the movement 
was spontaneous, it was quelled with the same rapidity. 



186 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

It was said that 20,000 inhabitants of La Brie and of 
the neighbourhood of Coulommiers had taken to arms 
at the bidding of the priests and other ecclesiastics, sup- 
ported by the most influential persons of the locality. 
When we arrived all was finished, and the garrison of 
Coulommiers, that is to say, a company of the i6th 
cavalry regiment, sufficed to quell the great sedition. 
The effective force of this company was only of eighty- 
four men ; but what was more curious, the captain and 
the two lieutenants were away at the time of the rising, 
and it was the sub-lieutenant, a boy of fifteen, who 
advanced at the head of his small company and 
charged the seditious gathering. This boldness was 
crowned with success. The affair took place between 
Maupertuis and Coulommiers, and as soon as the 
peasants found themselves charged by this feeble 
detachment of cavalry, they dispersed and took to flight 
after firing a few shots which wounded no one. The 
chasseurs then surrounded the remaining insurgents and 
led them back to Coulommiers, where they shut them 
up in a church, the prison being too small to contain 
them. 

* When we arrived we were arrayed in order of battle 
on the public place. We loaded our pieces with grape- 
shot and threatened to discharge them into the church if 
any symptom of rebellion was shown by the prisoners. 

'■ This resolute attitude intimidated the multitude, and 
extinguished all further thought of insurrection. We 
had with us 500 men of infantry and a squadron of 
cavalry, which, with ourselves and the garrison of Cou- 



My FATHER GOES INTO THE ARTILLERY, 187 

lommiers, made up an effective force of 800 or 900 men. 
This force was more than enough to put down more im- 
portant seditions. The youthful lieutenant who had so 
bravely taken the initiative of repression was much con- 
gratulated. When excitement had subsided, it was per- 
ceived that we were far too numerous for the small town 
of Coulommiers ; so our troops were sent in detach- 
ments to neighbouring villages. One detachment went 
to Le Ferte-Gaucher, another to the Abbey of Farmon- 
tiere, and a third to Rozay-en-Brie. I remained in 
Coulommiers with my company and the remainder of 
the troops. We formed a staff, composed of at least 
thirty officers; we took > our meals together, and the 
greatest harmony prevailed amongst us. I little thought 
that circumstances would eventually alter all this, and 
exclude us from social intercourse. 

' I discharged my functions with great zeal, main- 
taining stringent discipline, often drilling my company, 
and taking much pleasure in military life. We had no 
further trouble with the inhabitants of Coulommiers. 
The majority in the town was for us : it was only in the 
country that we were looked upon with hostility ; but 
even this rural dislike soon disappeared. During the 
six months we remained at Coulommiers we had none 
of those grave conflicts with the civil authorities which 
elsewhere occurred between the military and civil powers. 
Nevertheless, the Revolutionary Tribunal of our town 
was strangely composed. Its president was a little 
hunchback, who was thoroughly imbued with the idea 
of his own importance. This ridiculous individual could 



1 88 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



J 



neither read nor write ; but this did not stop him from 
ordering that all letters sent and received by the post- 
office should be forwarded to him for scrutiny. 

* I was then in frequent correspondence with my 
family and a few friends in Paris, so that I was one of 
,the first victims of this little caricature of a tyrant. A 

letter sent to me was handed over to him. He had the 
insolence to open it ; but what will scarcely be believed 
is that the hunchback and his clerks could not read it, 
and actually had the impudence to send for me to know 
what it contained. I confess that I could hardly master 
my indignation ; and, instead of giving them the expla- 
nation they asked for, I told them in unmeasured terms 
what I thought of their conduct. I threatened to write 
to the Paris authorities on the matter, and had the satis- 
faction to intimidate them sufficiently to make them give 
up my letter. The hunchback, moreover, asked me to 
overlook the matter, and apologised, saying that it was 
a mistake. 

* I was glad that the affair went no further, for the 
letter was from my poor mother, and contained on the 
victims of the time expressions which might have ap- 
peared treasonable to the ludicrous president of the 
Tribunal. 

* I again had difficulties with the Tribunal. This time 
it was concerning two men of my company, who had in- 
fringed one of the laws, in the making of which the local 
revolutionists were so prodigal. We were then under 
the empire of the law of maxiimun, of which the effects 



MV FATHER GOES INTO THE ARTILLERY. 189 

were so deplorable. The farmers who would not sbumit 
to the maximum no longer broucrht their provisions to 
the market, and we were often obliged to go and fetch 
provisions in the country. Now the little hunchback 
and his colleagues hit upon an ingenious device. They 
forbade any one to go and procure provisions beyond 
the walls of the town. 

*As they had no means of enforcing this absurd 
measure, they determined to do the work themselves. 
They repaired to the gates of the town, and became 
amateur excisemen. The hunchback and his colleagues 
were unfortunate, for the very first misdemeanants they 
pounced upon were two sappers of my company, who 
were tall and strong, and anything but disposed to allow 
themselves to be searched. A dispute followed, and 
this degenerated into a free fight, in which the civil 
power was much maltreated. The respectable president 
of the Revolutionary Tribunal received more kicks 
below his hump than was precisely agreeable, and his 
worthy companions fared no better. 

' I was immediately summoned to appear before 
these terrible myrmidons of the law. Although I was 
not personally concerned in this affair, I had more 
trouble to settle it than the first one. Still I a'ccom- 
plished this delicate task. The little hunchback was 
furious, and wanted to arrest my two sappers and try 
them. With much difficulty I made him understand 
that he had no legal control over them : that it would be 
imprudent to give publicity to an affair which might 



I90 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

make people laugh at his expense. This last reason 
effectually convinced him, and he reluctantly gave up 
his hopes of redress. 

* My stay at Coulommiers, which lasted about six 
months, was otherwise a quiet and pleasant one. I then 
received orders to go to Rozay-en-Brie, as temporary 
commander, with twenty-five artillerymen and thirty, 
soldiers, commanded by a lieutenant, under my orders. 
I stayed there three weeks, up to the time when I was 
replaced by the " Contrat Social " company. I then re- 
turned to Paris, where I was to be mixed up with an 
affair which made me bitterly regret having accepted 
my rank.' 



I 



191 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

ARREST OF MY FATHER AND GREAT-UNCLE AFTER 
THE ^th OF THERMIDOR. 

The affair to which my father alludes in the last lines of 
his MS. was of a very grave kind, and nearly cost- him 
his life. Some years elapsed before he wrote the follow- 
ing account of it : — 

* After my expedition in Brie, I returned to Paris, 
where I had very little to do beyond the common 
exigencies of military service. I was drilling my men 
and perfecting myself in my technical studies, when I 
was called upon to undertake a mission, of which the 
result was nearly fatal to me and to one of my near 
relatives. 

* It was on the 9th of Thermidor. Great anxiety pre- 
vailed throughout all the sections of the capital ; for all 
kinds of rumours concerning the result of the struggle in 
the Convention were afloat. In our quarter we hurried 
to our usual place of meeting, and I was listening to 
what was going on, when there came a message from the 
Commune ordering me to go to the Place de Greve with 
my company. I hesitated a little, and I deemed it 
prudent to take the advice of the meeting. The answer 



192 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

was that I was bound to obey, since the order was 
signed by the adjutant-general. I went even further. 
Being personally acquainted with the members of the 
Local Committee, I consulted them, observing that I 
still considered myself as belonging to the section, in 
spite of the exceptional circumstances which placed me 
under the orders of superior officers who had no concern 
in our local affairs. The members of the Committee 
praised me for my frankness, but were all of opinion that 
I should obey the order I had received. 

' I therefore called my men together, arranged my 
cannon into batteries, and started for the H6tel-de- 
Ville. There we waited for orders. Other companies 
arrived, and no one knew the reason of this display of 
arms. Some said that the National Convention was dis- 
solved, and that a large number of its members had 
made a conspiracy ; the others assumed that it was the 
Commune, at the head of which were Robespierre, Cou- 
thon, Saint-Just, and Henriot, general commander of the 
National Guard, which was dissolved. Public opinion 
hesitated between these two versions. When there is 
discord between the different authorities which constitute 
public power, the officer, whose mission it is to obey, 
is much perplexed. At such a time of anarchy, officers 
were exposed to become the blind instruments of some 
faction, and this is just what happened to me. 

* We were still waiting for orders when a young man, 
who wore the uniform of a superior officer, came up, and 
ordered us to report ourselves to the Commune. I im- 
mediately obeyed, and, accompanied by my uncle — sub- 



ARREST OF MY FATHER AND GREAT-UNCLE. 193 

lieutenant — and Sergeant Masson, I went up the stairs. 
We were ushered into a hall, where we had to certify 
our presence. We then retired. 

* A moment after, the same officer, followed by an 
escort of cavalry, came to order us to go to the Prefec- 
ture de Police. We marched away, and, after crossing 
the court of the Sainte-Chapelle, we halted in the smaller 
Rue de Jerusalem. The Prefecture, or Bureau Central, 
as it was then called, was of the province of the Com- 
mune. We remained shut up in an enclosure near the 
Palais du Justice, without any news of what was going 
on outside, and not daring to move for fear of trans- 
gressing our orders. 

' All was finished at eight o'clock P.M. The Conven- 
tion triumphed ; Robespierre and his friends were 
arrested ; the H6tel-de-Ville was captured. Up to the 
last moment we had no knowledge of these events. At 
last three citizens of our section came to apprise us of 
what had occurred, and to urge upon us the necessity of a 
prompt return to our quarter. We had been the ignorant 
and passive auxiliaries of the conquered party, and our 
predicament was very awkward. The three citizens only 
came at ten o'clock. On hearing of the peril to which 
we were exposed, we immediately prepared to go. The 
commander of the picket of the Prefecture wanted to 
oppose our retreat ; but I threatened to fire upon him 
and his men, and we marched away without hindrance. 
Without delay I went to our head-quarters, where I 
drew up a report of our doings during the day. 

' It soon became evident that I was very seriously 

VOL. II. O 



194 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

compromised. My uncle and I were committed for trial 
before the Revolutionary Tribunal, for the passive part 
we had enacted during the day. We were arrested (as 
also Sergeant Masson) in the first days of Fructidor. 
The main charge against us was that we had signed a 
presence sheet at the H6tel-de-Ville. On this sheet, 
after our signatures, an unknown hand had written, 
" And have taken the oath." Now we had taken no oath 
at all ; for had such a proposal been made to us, we 
could not but have perceived the snare prepared for us. 
This false mention had therefore been written after our 
departure. Many more citizens had been deceived in 
the same way. 

'We were sent to the Conciergerie. The indictment 
mentioned the names of forty-one accomplices incar- 
cerated with us. I was charged, among other crimes, 
**with having been seen in divers groups exciting to 
rebellion against the National Convention ; with having 
helped to free Henriot, arrested by order of the 
Committee of General Safety ; in having participated in 
the conspiracy of the Commune." As may be seen, I 
had good grounds for uneasiness ; for one of these 
charges with the preceding Tribunal would have been 
enough to forfeit my life ; but this Tribunal had been 
broken up after the events of Thermidor 9, and the 
superseding court was more moderate and indulgent. 

* We were tried on the 1 5th of Fructidor. No witness 
could be found in corroboration of the first charge. As 
to the second, Citizen Dobourt, president of the Tribunal, 
happened to be among those who were present when 



ARREST OF MY FATHER AND GREAT-UNCLE. 195 

Henriot was rescued, and he affirmed that I had nothing 
to do with it. I could have brought twenty witnesses 
to the effect that my company had not stirred during 
the whole of the day. As to the third charge, it was 
the most serious, since we had really signed the pre- 
sence-sheet. But our counsels, seeing that it was impos- 
sible to deny the fact, urged the question of intention, 
and this steered us out of danger. 

'We were, I should add, admirably defended. 
Masson's cause was taken up by M. Boutron, my uncle's 
by M. Julienne, and mine by M. Chauveau-Lagarde. 
The latter, who had defended Marie-Antoinette, was 
especially eloquent. After some consideration the 
Tribunal acquitted us, and this decision was received 
with cheers. I confess that I felt much relieved. I had 
passed my days of captivity in the very same cell where 
Marie-Antoinette had been imprisoned. I had slept on 
her bed, and this circumstance suggested to me the idea 
of appealing to M. Chauveau-Lagarde, who had de- 
fended her. 

When we were discharged, I ran to a room in the 
Palais de Justice where I knew my father was waiting 
for the issue of the trial. I embraced him, weeping with 
joy, but I was surprised to find a cloud over his coun- 
tenance. Alas ! I had forgotten that out of forty-one 
prisoners forty had been acquitted, but that the forty- 
first was to die on the scaffold on the following day.' * 

^ Joseph Julien Lemonnier, Civil Commissioner of the section of the 
H6tel-de-Ville, executed on the i6th of Fructidor. 



196 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

This manuscript speaks for itself. It shows us the sor^ 
of the executioner of 1793 threatened in his turn with the 
paternal axe — a prisoner in the same cell as some of the 
royal victims of the Revolution, and appearing in his- 
turn before the same Tribunal. 



197 



CHAPTER XLV. 

THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 

Robespierre's lease of power had nearly come to an 
end. A reaction had set in, and the dictator's enemies 
leagued together and began to plot his overthrow and 
death. He had at first for enemies the friends of 
Danton and Camille Desmoulins, a few deputies of that 
faction of the Convention that was called the Plaine, and 
the deputies he had personally attacked for their con- 
duct during their missions. His pretensions to Spartan 
purity, his dogmatic and absolute way of speaking, the 
authority he had gained, his very eminent qualities of 
statesmanship, as well as his ambition and his disdain 
for the prejudices of justice and humanity, had excited 
animosity and envy. When almost all had a right to 
suppose that not only their liberty but their lives were 
in danger, all met on the common ground of relentless 
hostility. 

Tallien was the bitterest of Robespierre's foes. He 
had two lives to defend — his own, and that of a woman 

* The circumstantial account of the execution of Robespierre, Saint- 
Just, and Couthon is as furnished to the editor of these Memoirs by his 
father, who had them from Charles Henri Sanson. 



198 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

he loved — Madame de Fontenay, daughter of Cabarrus, 
the banker, arrested at Robespierre's bidding. The 
whole of the Montagne was united in one commoa 
thought — the overthrow of the triumvirs ; for when 
Robespierre was spoken of, Couthon and Saint-Just 
were always included in the anathema. At Tallien's. 
instigation the anti-Robespierrist coalition grew stronger 
every day ; but Robespierre was so feared that no one: 
yet attempted to attack him openly. The storm did 
not burst for a long time, and at certain moments it was- 
doubtful whether Robespierre's enemies would conquer ; 
but when it did burst on the 9th of Thermidor, its fury 
was so irresistible that the dictator was swept away, and 
could not even say a word. His arrest, and that of 
Saint-Just, Couthon, and Lebas, was decreed. 

While the Convention was sealing the fate of its most 
formidable members, another strange scene was taking 
place on the way to the guillotine. Forty-five prisoners 
had been condemned to death by the Revolutionary 
Tribunal. Just as sentence was being passed, the report 
that Robespierre and his friends were about to be 
judged in their turn reached the Tribunal. There was 
immense excitement, especially among the convicts, who 
hoped that this circumstance might save their lives. 
Charles Henri Sanson, who was superintending the toilet 
of the convicts, was not less excited, for he felt that 
things might go otherwise on the morrow. He there- 
tore determined to try and gain time, and finally to 
obtain the postponement of the execution for twenty- 
four hours. He supposed that the first thought of the 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 



199 



Convention would be for the unfortunate creatures who 
were going to suffer by his hands. He went to the 
Palais de Justice in quest of Fouquier-Tinville, but this 
terrible functionary had just left it. However, my 
grandfather was shown the house where he had gone to 
dine. He found him, and exaggerating the state of 
effervescence of the faubourgs, he suggested the neces- 
sity of putting off the execution. Fouquier answered 
with a gesture of impatience : * This has nothing to do 
with us. Sentence has been passed ; nothing can impede 
its immediate execution.' 

Charles Henri Sanson returned to the Conciergerie. 
The sinister preparations for death were terminated, the 
forty-five prisoners were ready. Some were weeping, 
others praying — all were in the highest state of excite- 
ment, for the agitation of the executioner, no less than 
the confusion of the judges, had escaped their notice. 
At last my grandfather gave the signal for departure, 
but he said to Lariviere : ' We shall not go further than 
the Bastille ; people are so tired of this sort of thing 
that they will deliver the prisoners and prevent the 
execution. So much the better ! ' 

A few cries of * Mercy ! ' ' No guillotine ! ' rose on the 
quays, but that was all. The crowd was so compact 
on the Place de la Bastille that the cortege advanced 
with much difficulty. The cries now became more 
numerous and more vehement. My grandfather, who 
was in the first cart, bent towards a young man named 
Couter de Boulot, who was near him, and said : 

* It seems to me that our parts are about to change. 



200 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

and that we have a chance of being executed In your 
stead.' 

The poor fellow's intellect was so confused that he 
did not seem to understand. 

' Yes,' continued Charles Henri, * if I were in your 
place and you in mine, I don't know whether I could 
resist the temptation of escaping.' 

Couter de Boulot looked at Charles Henri, but did 
not move ; but one of the women understood Charles 
Henri's intention, for she immediately addressed the 
crowd : 

' Mercy, citizens ! we are not enemies of the people 1 
Save us, save us ! ' 

This was a signal for a chorus of prayers, sobs, and 
moans from the other carts. My grandfather's assistants 
were as moved as he was, and certainly would have 
offered no resistance had some attempt been made to 
remove the prisoners from their hands. But the people 
would not move ; vain expressions of compassion rose 
from the thick masses of heads, but nothing more. At 
one moment the pressure was so great around the carts, 
that it was impossible to advance. Those who were 
nearer to the convicts and the executioner were, how- 
ever, seized with a strange panic. An opening was 
made, and there was no further pretext for delaying the 
execution, which duly took place. 

On his return home, my grandfather found an order 
of Fouquier-Tinville's to go to the Palais de Justice, and 
remain there all night. 

The members of the Convention who had been 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 201 

•arrested had for some time been detained In the office 
of the Committee of PubHc Safety, and from thence they 
had been taken to prison ; Robespierre the elder to the 
Luxembourg, Saint-Just to the Ecossals, Couthon to La 
Bourbe, Lebas to the house of justice of the department, 
and Robespierre the younger to La Force. Just as they 
were leaving the Tuileries, Henrlot, the general-in-chlef 
of the National Guards, and his aides-de-camp were 
brought in. 

On the other hand the Commune was not inactive, 
and was doing its utmost to save Robespierre and 
-Struggle with the Convention. It proclaimed insurrec- 
tion, and sent emissaries to all parts of Paris to call 
together the National Guard, in order to overthrow the 
Convention. A part of the artillery of the National 
Guard took Robespierre's part, and proposed to attack 
the Tuileries. With their assistance Coffinhal, who was 
looking for Robespierre, broke into the office of the Com- 
mittee, found Henrlot, and freed him. Henrlot mounted 
a horse and resumed the command of the National Guard ; 
but instead of marching on the Assembly, he galloped 
off to the H6tel-de-Ville, there to take the advice of 
Robespierre, who, on his side, had been freed by his 
friends. Henriot's want of boldness in this circum- 
stance saved the Convention, the members of which had 
time to organise their own forces ; and while Henrlot, 
Robespierre, Saint-Just, Lebas, Couthon, Robespierre 
the younger, Payan, and Dumas were losing time in 
bootless deliberation, Leonard Bourdon, one of the re- 
presentatives, supported by a large number of National 



202 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

Guards, surrounded the H6tel-de-Ville, and rushed into 
the hall where Robespierre and his friends had taken 
refuge. There still remains considerable doubt as to 
what then took place. This is the account given by 
Barrere in his report of the lOth of Thermidor : 'The 
guilty ones were seized with terror when the sections 
entered the H6tel-de-Ville. Lebas blew his brains out, 
Couthon wounded himself, Robespierre the younger 
jumped out of a window, Robespierre the elder at- 
tempted to commit suicide. Saint-Just was captured, 
Dumas sought shelter in a garret, Henriot took to flight.' 
History has distrusted Barrere's official account, for it is 
in glaring contradiction with the account furnished to the 
Convention by Leonard Bourdon on the morning of the 
1 0th. He introduced a genda^rme who, he said, had 
killed two of the conspirators with his own hand, and 
these conspirators he takes care to designate by name : 
* We found Robespierre the elder armed with a dagger, 
which this brave gendarme wrenched from his hand ; he 
also struck Couthon, who was also armed.' 

Toulongeon, an ex-member of the Constituent 
Assembly who wrote in 1812, affirms that Robespierre's 
jaw was broken by a pistol-shot. There is, then, every 
reason to think that Robespierre did not attempt ta 
commit suicide ; M. Louis Blanc shows this very clearly 
in the notes which follow the seventh chapter of the 
tenth volume of his ' History of the Revolution.' Ac- 
cording to M. Louis Blanc, Medal, the gendarme men- 
tioned by Leonard Bourdon, entered the hall of the 
Hotel-de-Ville long before the latter ; recognising 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 203 

Robespierre, he fired a pistol at him and wounded 
him. 

To M. Louis Blanc's conclusive demonstration I can 
add an affirmation which, modest as it is, is worth con- 
sideration. Medal was one of the judicial gendarmes 
whom my father saw almost daily. Promoted to the 
rank of officer Medal left the corps, but the reason of 
this promotion was a secret to no one ; and, at a time 
when the attempted suicide of Robespierre was accepted 
by the gravest historians, my father used to tell me of 
Medal's pistol-shot, the influence it had on the man's 
promotion, and the anger felt by his comrades — many of 
Avhom were rabid partisans of Robespierre — at what 
they considered a piece of favouritism. 

Howbeit, a quarter of an hour after Leonard Bourdon's 
entrance, the situation was such as Barrere described 
it. Maximilian Robespierre was lying on the ground,, 
seriously wounded and covered with blood; Robes- 
pierre the younger, after taking off his shoes and walk- 
ing for some time on the broad cornice of the first floor 
of the Hotel- de-Ville, had jumped down on the bayonets 
of the soldiers below. Couthon, slightly wounded, was 
carried by his friends as far as the quay. Henriot was not 
better off than his companions ; he would not commit 
suicide, and Coffinhal, indignant at his want of nerve, 
threw him out of a window into one of the interior court- 
yards, where he fell on a heap of broken glass. He had 
strength enough to crawl into a drain where he was 
found some hours after. Saint-Just, Payan, and Lescot- 
Fleuriot were arrested. 



204 " MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Robespierre the elder was placed on a hand-barrow 
and carried to the Convention. He was deposited on a 
large table in one of the rooms of the Committee of 
Public Safety ; and there he remained, from three to 
-eight o'clock A.M., a prey to the sarcasms of those who 
two days before trembled before him. At last his wounds 
were dressed and he was taken to the Conciergerie, 
where Saint-Just, Couthon, Payan, and the others had 
preceded him. 

At five o'qlock A.M. the public prosecutor ordered my 
grandfather to erect the guillotine on the Place de Greve. 
Charles Henri Sanson had scarcely traversed the court- 
yard of the Palais when he was recalled and told to 
wait. A message from the Committee of Public Safety 
-altered the first instructions given to Fouquier ; the 
Place de Greve, which had at first been selected for the 
•execution because of the hatred felt for Robespierre in 
the neighbouring sections, was abandoned, and the final 
<iecision was that Robespierre should be executed on 
the Place de la Revolution. As some doubts remained 
as to the disposition of the inhabitants of the Faubourg 
Saint-Antoine, Charles Henri was instructed to remove 
the scaffold to its new scene by a roundabout route. 

He set out with his assistants at six o'clock in the 
morning ; neither he nor his brother, therefore, were 
present when Robespierre and his companions arrived at 
the Conciergerie, but he was informed of what took place 
by the turnkeys. The scaffold was taken down and 
transferred to the carts. During this operation an im- 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 2 

mense crowd assembled in the Place du Trone. In spite 
of the Robespierrist tendencies of the Faubourg, no- 
hostile feeling was manifested, but as the carts moved 
away more than one cried : * A good journey to you, but 
don't come back.' A compact mass, in which young 
people were in a majority, escorted my grandfather and 
his assistants, and when they reached the Place de la 
Revolution the escort was so numerous that the gen- 
darmes had great difficulty in clearing the spot where 
the scaffold was to be erected. This was not done be- 
fore two o'clock P.M. 

My grandfather and father had gone back to the 
Conciergerie at mid-day. There was as much excitement 
inside the prison as outside. All the prisoners had been 
so near death that they could hardly believe their senses. 
As I previously stated, Robespierre had been brought be- 
tween eight and nine o'clock ; he had been deposited on 
the bed in which Danton had slept one night. He did 
not utter a single groan ; he only spoke two or three 
times, and, on account of his wounds, his words were 
scarcely intelligible. Some linen and water were offered 
to him ; he washed his wounds and tried to sleep, but 
could not do so. He then rose and asked for ink and 
paper, but formal orders had been given, and the turn- 
key refused with the evasiveness of language usual to his 
profession. Robespierre made a gesture of anger and 
threat, but he immediately regained his self-possession. 

Robespierre the younger, who was badly hurt, was in 
a neighbouring cell ; Couthon was in the head turnkey's 
room ; and Saint-Just occupied a cell which, in remem- 



2o6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

brance of the massacre of September, had been called 
"*' the national slaughterhouse.' 

The Tribunal was to sit at ten o'clock, but an unex- 
pected difficulty arose. According to the law it was 
necessary that the identity of the prisoners should be 
-established by two members of the Commune ; but as 
all the members of the Commune were implicated in 
Hobespierre's conspiracy this formality could not be ac- 
complished. Fouquier-Tinville acquainted the Conven- 
tion with this difficulty ; the Assembly suggested that 
the local committees should send delegates with the 
object of identifying the accused. 

The Tribunal began to sit at half-past twelve. Seil- 
lein presided ; Fouquier-Tinville, assisted by Liendon, his 
substitute, was at his usual place. Robespierre the 
elder was carried in on a hand-barrow ; his younger 
brother was supported by two gendarmes ; two other 
gendarmes carried Couthon in an arm-chair. After being 
duly identified they were taken back to their cells, and 
the Tribunal continued to proceed against those who 
were brought up after the ringleaders. 

Liendon, Fouquier's substitute, had ordered that the 
culprits should be * prepared ' as they left the Tribunal, in 
order to save time. At two o'clock Charles Henri 
Sanson, his son, his brother, and two assistants entered 
Robespierre's cell. He was lying down, his eyes fixed 
on the window facing his bed. He did not move when 
they entered, nor did he even look round. My father 
asked him to get up ; his eye was still brilliant and 
seemed to ask * Why } ' Before an answer was returned 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 207 

he understood, sat up, and stretched out his neck, ex- 
pressing a desire not to leave his bed ; but, as this could 
not be done, the assistants lifted him up and placed him 
on a chair. A large piece of linen which covered his 
broken jaw was taken off, and while my great-uncle 
was cutting his hair Charles Henri Sanson held up 
the bandages. When the operation was finished my 
grandfather dressed again the wound, and Robespierre 
acknowledged his kindness by a nod. 

Saint- Just was walking up and down his cell when 
the executioners entered. He was slightly pale, but his 
eye was bright and proud. He sat down without a word 
and allowed my grand-uncle to cut his hair. He then 
held out his hands to Charles Henri before being asked, 
and as the latter said, ' Not yet,' Saint-Just murmured, 
* 'Tis a pity ! I am in a hurry.' These were the only 
words he uttered, and to the death he retained an air of 
superb indifference. 

Couthon was the only one of the triumvirs who 
showed discouragement, but his prostration was not due 
to fear but to sadness. 

At four o'clock the Tribunal had identified a sufhci- 
ently large number of outlaws. There was another ex- 
change of messages between the judicial authorities and 
the Committee of Public Safety concerning the convicts 
who were to be executed on the same day. Twenty-one 
individuals were selected for immediate punishment. 
These were : Henriot, late general of the National 
Guard ; Lavalette, late general of the Army of the 
North ; Dumas, late president of the Revolutionary Tri- 



2o8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

bunal ; Payan, agent of the Commune ; Vivler, one ofi 
the judges of the Tribunal and president of the Jacobins ; 
Lescot-Fleuriot, late mayor of Paris ; Simon, the cob- 
bler (keeper of the son of Louis XVI.), and ten other 
municipal officers. 'Henriot had had an eye pulled out 
in the scuffle which attended his arrest ; he was horrible 
to behold. Nothing could be more dismal than the cor- 
tege as it descended the staircase of the Conciergerie ; 
two dying men and a cripple were at the head of it, and 
a corpse was in the rear. Lebas' body followed Robes- 
pierre, as Valaze's corpse had followed the Girondins. 

At half-past four the carts appeared on the quay. 
No crowd ever equalled that which was assembled to see 
the last of Robespierre. Most historians have related 
his sinister journey to the scaffold, and I have little in- 
formation to give beyond what has been already written. 
The drama was taking place around the executioners 
rather than with them, in the streets rather than in the 
carts. Maximilian Robespierre, seated^ on some straw 
which one of the assistants had provided for him, was 
leaning against the side of the cart in which he was ; his 
face was swollen and livid. The fiercest cries, the most 
vehement exclamations, left him undisturbed ; he kept his 
eyes closed during the whole of the journey. His brother, 
who had attempted suicide by jumping out of a window, 
was almost insensible. Couthon appeared astonished at 
the rage of the multitude, and in,his eyes, which were very 
soft and intelligent, the utmost surprise could be read. 

* Not standing, as M. Michelet asserts that he was, in his History of 
the Revolution^ vol. vii. p. 515. 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 209 

When Dumas answered to some passing taunt, * My only- 
regret is that I did not get all these blackguards guillo- 
tined,' Couthon shook his head thoughtfully. Saint- 
Just was the only one who openly affronted the storm ; 
and he did so without anger, bombast, or weakness. 
The firmness of his convictions probably elevated his 
mind above these manifestations. Once only did he 
look down ; a woman near the cart was insulting Robes- 
pierre, and charging him with the death of her daughter. 
Saint-Just smiled bitterly, and he was heard to say, as 
if speaking to himself: 'Her daughter! Perhaps she 
would have sold her for twenty livres.' 

When the carts reached the house of the Duplay 
family, where Robespierre used to live, the drivers were 
obliged to stop. Rings were formed around the carts, 
and the people danced madly and furiously. A child 
brought a pail of blood from a neighbouring butcher's, 
and the door and walls of Robespierre's abode were 
smeared with it. It was useless for Charles Henri 
Sanson to order the gendarmes to clear the way ; the 
gendarmes joined the people and a deplorable scene 
followed. This disgusting manifestation of feeling on 
the part of the agents of authority had always been 
allowed since the Queen's execution, and there was no 
help for it. Robespierre opened his eyes and closed 
them again when the cart came to a standstill, but this 
supreme insult left him as unmoved as before. 

It was a quarter-past six o'clock when the cortege at 
last reached the Place de la Revolution. The convicts 
were removed from the carts. Gobeau, ex-substitute of 

VOL. II. p 



2IO MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the public prosecutor and member of the Commune, was- 
the first who suffered. MaximiHan Robespierre stood 
leaning against one of the carts, his back turned to the 
scaffold. His brother was held up by two gendarmes, 
his wounds not allowing him to stand without sup- 
port. Couthon was in a chair specially provided for 
him. When Saint-Just's turn came he embraced the 
cripple, and in passing before the Robespierres he pro- 
nounced the only word of ' Farewell ! ' His voice be- 
trayed no emotion. Robespierre the elder nodded in 
answer, turned round, and looked on while his friend was 
being strapped to the weigh-plank. Robespierre was 
the tenth to appear on the platform ; he went up the 
steps of the scaffold without any assistance whatever. 
His demeanour exhibited neither weakness nor assumed 
bravery ; his eye was cold and calm. Charles Henri 
told one of his men to take off the linen in which the 
prisoner's face was wrapped ; the man did as he was 
directed and uncovered the broken jaw. The pain must 
have been horrible, for Robespierre uttered a fearful cry. 
The blood trickled down from the jaw and the mouth 
remained wide open. He was immediately strapped 
down, and, less than a minute after, the knife fell. The 
head was shown to the crowd, just like Dan ton's and the 
King's. 

A natural wish to contradict whatever may be of a 
nature to cast undeserved discredit on my family, in- 
duces me here to address an observation to an eminent 
historian. In his 'History of the Revolution' (p. 265, 
vol. X.), M. Louis Blanc says : ' When Robespierre was 



( 



THE DEATH OF ROBESPIERRE. 211 

on the platform of the guillotine, the executioner, a rabid 
royalist, having, by a rough and barbarous movement, 
torn away the bandage which covered his wounds, the 
unexpected pain which shot through his face drew a 
piercing cry from him,' &c. I have no wish to clear 
my grandfather of the charge of royalism which M. 
Louis Blanc brings against him, but I cannot allow 
the charge of cruelty to pass without protest. The 
energy which Charles Henri Sanson displayed in trying 
to put a stop to the hideous saturnalia of the Rue Saint- 
Honore — and this energy was remarked by many — 
gives the exact measure of the sanguinary instincts of 
this rabid royalist. In this circumstance, as in that 
alluded to by M. Louis Blanc, my grandfather forgot his 
own antipathy only to think of the strict and humane 
discharge of his duty. Robespierre's wound was covered 
by a wet piece of linen which was made fast with a 
napkin. Another piece of linen surrounded the forehead 
and the back of the head. Had my grandfather attempted 
to execute Robespierre with these bandages, the most 
serious consequences might have ensued ; and I think, 
speaking from a professional point of view, I have a 
right to assert that, however sharp was the unfortunate 
man's pain, it spared him torments far more terrible. 



p 2 



212 MEMOIRS OF THE SAN SONS. 



CHAPTER XLVL 

LESURQUES. 

Although it is impossible for me to mention all the 
instances of capital punishment that occurred in the 
course of the French Revolution, I cannot pass to 
another phasis of these Memoirs without dwelling on 
one of the many criminal cases of the period, which is 
still, and is likely to remain, one of the most notorious 
causes c^l^bres. I allude to the Lesurques affair. 

At the beginning of the year 4 of the French 
Republic considerable terror prevailed in the provinces 
in consequence of the sinister deeds of a large gang of 
bandits who styled themselves the Chauffeurs (literally 
* warmers '). Almost every day the news came of the 
capture of some castle or farm, attended with atrocious 
scenes in which these formidable malefactors surpassed 
the cruelty of former judicial tortures. The name of 
' Chauffeurs ' was but too significant ; the gang had 
chosen the locality of La Beauce for the scene of their 
operations, and their least cruel crime was murder. 
These ruffians, with the object of compelling their 
victims to point out the spot where their property was 
concealed, had invented an atrocious infliction. They 



LESURQUES. 213 

lighted a large fire and brought the feet of the victim in 
contact with the flames until a confession was extorted. 
The inhabitants of La Beauce were so terrified that they 
dared not venture out of their houses even in broad 
daylight. 

Just when outrages of this kind were being per- 
petrated with the utmost audacity, a report reached 
Paris to the effect that the mail of Lyons had been 
waylaid. The courier and the postilion had been found 
in a lifeless state at a short distance from each other, 
and the only clue found near the scene of the murder 
was a deserted horse and cart. 

The police immediately set to work. Citizen Dau- 
banton, justice of the peace of the section of the Pont 
Neuf, was entrusted with the care of discovering the 
guilty parties. A man of the name of Courriol was 
arrested at Chateau-Thierry, and he was found in pos- 
session of sums and letters which were eventually proved 
to have been stolen from the mail. Courriol was trans- 
ferred to Paris, together with one of his friends named 
Golier, and a third individual named Guesno, who lived 
in the same house as Courriol. This treble capture, 
however, threw but little light on the mystery. Courriol 
alone was seriously compromised ; but nothing could be 
proved against Golier and Guesno, whose social position 
and antecedents were above question. Guesno was 
finally set at liberty. He was returning to the prefec- 
ture of police to ask for his passport, when he met one 
of his compatriots of the name of Lesurques, and forth- 
with he told him of the unpleasant position in which 



214 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



he had been placed. His story was not finished when 
they reached the prefecture, and Guesno proposed to 
Lesurques to come in with him and hear the end of his 
account while his passport was being looked for. 

Scarcely, however, had Lesurques and his com- 
panion entered the ante-chamber of M. Daubanton's 
closet when they became aware that two of the wit- 
nesses called on behalf of the prosecution in the Mail 
affair were looking at them with more than ordinary 
curiosity. These witnesses, who were women, thought 
they identified Guesno and Lesurques as two of the 
supposed murderers, whom they had seen at a short 
distance from the place where the crime had been com- 
mitted ; and they hastened to intimate the fact to 
M. Daubanton. This magistrate was much perplexed, 
for it appeared to him highly improbable that two 
criminals would thus expose themselves to instant re- 
cognition, and rush into the lion's den. Lesurques, 
especially, had no reason whatever for coming to the 
prefecture ; and as to Guesno, his presence was suffi- 
ciently justified. But the evidence of the two women 
was so positive that he felt it his duty to arrest Le- 
surques and Guesno. 

The two prisoners had great chances of escape, in 
spite of the affirmations of the women, so long as the 
case remained in the hands of M. Daubanton ; but, for 
unknown reasons, the affair was sent for investigation 
to the criminal tribunal of Melun ; and the instructing 
magistrate of this last court, instead of imitating the 
prudence of his Parisian colleague and trying to dis- 






LESURQUES. 215 

cover the truth, applied himself to the collection of 
proofs of the guilt of the prisoners. A terrible indict- 
ment was drawn up against Lesurques and Guesno, 
who were formally tried, together with Courriol and 
four other individuals named Laborde, Bruer, Bernard, 
and Richard. The trial was about to begin when the 
prisoners formally asked to be tried by the criminal 
court of Paris, a petition which was granted. 

The delayed affair was at last brought up for inves- 
tigation before the Paris Tribunal on Thermidor 15. 
The president of the Tribunal, Jerome Gohier, member 
of the Legislative Assembly, was a harsh, obstinate man, 
and throughout the trial he displayed excessive severity 
and exaggerated zeal. Fifteen witnesses on behalf of 
the defence proved an alibi in favour of Lesurques, 
eighty-three others spoke highly of his well-known 
respectability ; but their evidence went for nothing 
in opposition to those who, with singular pertinacity, 
maintained that Lesurques was one of those who had 
been seen lurking near the scene of the murder on 
the night when it was committed. One of the wit- 
nesses for the defence, a countryman of Lesurques 
named Legrand, jeweller of the Palais Royal, said he 
could corroborate his evidence by an entry of a trans- 
action with Lesurques which, he said, had taken place 
on the very day of the crime. The book was called for, 
and it was perceived that an eight had been altered into 
a nine. At the requisition of the public prosecutor the 
unfortunate Legrand was immediately arrested on a 
•charge of perjury. 



2i6 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

This seventy but too plainly indicated the result of 
the trial. The fifteen witnesses who certified an alibi 
were not believed, and the evidence of the two women^ 
together with that of five other doubtful witnesses, w-as 
declared conclusive. As for Lesurques he did not for a 
moment cease to maintain his innocence. 

As the jurors were preparing to retire, a woman who 
had at first been arraigned, Madeleine Breban, mistress 
of Courriol, begged the judge's leave to make an im- 
portant statement She declared that out of the six 
prisoners at the bar her lover alone was guilty, and that 
Guesno and Lesurques were the victims of an extra- 
ordinary and fatal resemblance with two of the real 
murderers named Vidal and Dubosc. The president, 
whose duty it was to investigate this strange and capital 
fact, especially after the evidence of Lesurques' wit- 
nesses, drily answered that the trial was closed, and that 
it was too late to take evidence ; and the Tribunal, after 
hearing the verdict of the jury, acquitted Guesno and 
Bruer, condemned Pierre-Thomas Richard to penal 
servitude for twenty years and to public exhibition for 
six hours, and passed sentence of death on Courriol, 
Lesurques, and David Bernard. On hearing his con- 
demnation, Lesurques, who had been firm and collected 
throughout the trial, lost his self-possession, and raising 
his hands to heaven he exclaimed : 

' The crime which is imputed to me is indeed 
atrocious and deserves death ; but if it is horrible to 
murder on the high road it is not less so to abuse the 
law and convict an innocent man. A day will come 



LESURQUES. 217 

when my innocence will be recognised, and then may 
my blood fall upon the jurors who have so lightly con- 
victed me, and on the judges who have influenced their 
decision ! ' 

Strange to say, Courriol, the really guilty convict, 
appeared but slightly preoccupied with his own fate. 
When he was again in the Conciergerie he thought only 
of corroborating the declaration of Madeleine Breban,. 
his mistress, and of saving the life of Bernard, whom he 
knew to be but slightly guilty, and of Lesurques, whose 
innocence he was fully aware of He confirmed his 
mistress's evidence, and denounced Vidal and Dubosc 
as the real perpetrators of the crime, adding that Made- 
leine Breban, who was free, could assist the judicial 
authorities in the apprehension of the culprits. Two 
days after he repeated his declaration, at the same time 
revealing the names of other accomplices altogether un- 
known. 

Other witnesses asserted that, during the trial, 
Madeleine Breban had spoken to them of Lesurques' 
innocence. One of them said that he had seen the two 
culprits confounded with Lesurques and Guesno. This 
resemblance had been increased, as far as the former 
was concerned, by Dubosc putting on a fair wig, which 
completed his resemblance to Lesurques. The Tribunal, 
however, refused to consider these new facts, and the 
execution was about to take place when the barrister 
who had defended Lesurques appealed to the Directoire 
on behalf of his client. Public opinion was strongly in 
favour of the convict ; and this, more than anything else,. 



2i8 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

induced the Directoire to delay the execution. Mean- 
while Courriol sent them the following letter : 

* Is it, then, true that my crime is to provoke a double 
murder? The truthful declarations I have constantly] 
made have not saved two innocent men. Can I at least 
hope that, to avenge their death, you will give express 
orders for the apprehension of the four individuals I 
have designated, and who are my only accomplices .^ 
The truth will be discovered before long, but before 
this, the innocent prisoners will perish. The innoce?its ! 
I repeat it, and cannot help repeating to the last minute 
of my life.' 

The Directoire referred the affair to the Conseil des 
Cinq-cents. A committee was appointed, and Count 
Simeon was appointed reporter. The choice was ill 
advised ; Count Simeon was more engrossed by the 
technicalities of the law than moved by a real sense of 
justice. His long and declamatory report went against 
the unhappy Lesurques, whose fate was henceforth 
sealed. 

Lesurques heard the fatal news with the stoicism 
which had not for a single moment forsaken him. He bade 
farewell to his family, sent a lock of his hair to each of 
his children, and prepared for death with the coolness 
of an undisturbed conscience. On the 9th of Brumaire, 
year 5 (October 30, 1796), my grandfather and father 
proceeded to the Conciergerie, and found the convicts in 
the hall, through which so many had passed during the 
Reign of Terror. David Bernard was in a state of utter 
prostration; Courriol, on the contrary, was excited. As 



LESURQUES. 219 

to Lesurques, he was as calm and fearless as ever. 
When he saw my grandfather, whose white hair suffi- 
ciently designated him as the chief executioner, he 
stepped up to him, and said, holding out a sealed letter : 

* Citizen, I hope for the honour of human justice that 
your functions do not often compel you to shed the 
blood of a guiltless man ; I hope, therefore, that you 
will grant the last request of a man who is about to 
suffer for what he has not done. Be good enough to 
keep this letter, which may hereafter contribute to the 
restoration of the honour of my wife and poor children, 
whereof they have been so unjustly deprived.' 

While one of his assistants was cutting the unfortu- 
nate man's hair, my grandfather read the paper Lesurques 
had just given him. It was a letter addressed to Dubosc, 
the man in whose place he was condemned. It ran as 
follows : 

* To Citizen Dubosc. 

' Citizen Dubosc, — I do not even know you, and I am 
going to suffer the death which was reserved for you. 
Be satisfied with the sacrifice of my life. Should you 
ever be brought to account, remember my three children 
and their mother, who are disgraced for ever, and do not 
prolong their agony. Confess that you are the man.' 

After reading the letter my grandfather approached 
Lesurques and assured him that he would send a copy 
of it to all the papers. I need hardly add that Charles 
Henri kept his word. 



220 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

All preparations were now concluded. Lesurques, of 
his own choice, was dressed in spotless white, symbol of 
his innocence. He was the first to take his place in the 
cart ; Courriol followed him, and Bernard, who had 
fainted, was deposited on the straw. Then began the 
most dismal and extraordinary journey that ever was 
made from the Conciergerie to the Place de Greve. 
LeSurques and Courriol stood in front. At every turn 
of the wheel, Courriol exclaimed in a piercing voice : 

* I am guilty ! Lesurques is innocent ! ' 

And for twenty minutes, that is during the whole 
way to the guillotine, he perseveringly repeated his awful 
protest against justice. The crowd was horrified, and 
there were few who did not believe the murderer w^ho 
confessed his crime, but who proclaimed his companion's 
innocence. Courriol again repeated his words at the 
foot of the scafibld with extraordinary energy and 
vehemence, and the thump of the knife but just covered 
his supreme shriek : 

* Lesurques is innocent ! ' 

Lesurques did not utter a word. He looked at 
Courriol with a touching expression of gratitude, and 
when his turn came he advanced firmly, saying : 

' May God forgive my judges as I forgive them ! ' 
The rehabilitation which the unfortunate Lesurques 
hoped for is yet to come. It was in vain that his family 
sought it with the most noble and interesting constancy ; 
vainly have journalists, writers, and public opinion gener- 
ally supported their efforts. The judicial authorities 
have perseveringly refused to recognise this flagrant 



LESURQUES. 221 

miscarriage of justice.^ And yet the innocence of 
Lesurques was amply demonstrated a short time after 
his execution : all the real murderers of the courier of 
Lyons designated by Courriol were captured ; Dubosc 
himself, whose fatal resemblance to Lesurques was the 
cause of the latter's death, was taken and tried. Dubosc 
was a rufhan of the worst kind. He denied the crime, 
doubtless in the hope of saving his life ; but his protesta- 
tions were of no avail ; he was executed just four years 
after Lesurques. Two years later, another murderer 
designated by Courriol was taken and executed ; his 
name was Roussy. Before his death he made a full 
confession and entirely cleared Lesurques, who had no 
acquaintance whatever with any of the murderers of 
the courier of Lyons. 

Meanwhile the family of Lesurques were in the 
horrors of want and despair — their property was con- 
fiscated, his wife and mother became mad. The latter 
died in a lunatic asylum ; the former only recovered her 
senses some years after. Five-and-twenty years elapsed 
before any notice of the ' affaire Lesurques ' was taken 
by the State ; it was only under the Restoration that the 
indefatigable champions of the Lesurques family ob- 
tained a revision of the sentence as far as material 
interests were concerned. The Minister of Finances at 
last recognised that the confiscation of Lesurques' pro- 
perty was illegal, and this property was duly restored 
to the children. But with this the descendants of 

* It is only two years since the grand-children of Lesurques made 
another ineffectual attempt to obtain the revision of his trial.— Ed. N. 



222 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Lesurques were not satisfied. With a perseverance] 
which can only be compared to that shown by the 
family of Lally-ToUendal, they have appealed to justice 
under every successive Government ; but, less fortunate 
than the son of the governor of French India, they are 
still waiting for justice, and the French courts have not 
seen the last of them yet. 

I have now exhausted the documents and notes left 
by my ancestors, and particularly by my grandfather 
and father. There is a gap in the information of the 
latter; it may appear a serious one since it extends over 
nearly fifteen years, but the omission, for which, of 
course, I am in no way responsible, is more apparent 
than real. Executions were not very frequent under the 
Consulate and the Empire, and I cannot conscientiously 
draw upon my imagination by putting together the 
fragmentary information gathered from conversation 
with my father on the executions of Fouquier-Tinville,. 
Carrain, Baboeuf, Cadoudal, &c. My task is now wholly 
personal : I have to relate my own impressions and 
what I have seen. The impressions of an executioner 
may seem to the reader almost as interesting as the 
events he has to chronicle ; this may be my excuse for 
dilating upon my education, and the circumstances 
which unavoidably led me to embrace a profession 
which, although it had been that of nine generations of 
my ancestors, was none the less contrary to my tastes 
and aspirations. 



223 



CHAPTER XLVII. 

MV VOCATION. 

I WAS born in 1799. My father's first intention was 
not that I should take to the guillotine. My grand- 
mother as well as my mother were strongly opposed ta 
the extension of the office to me. My grandfather was. 
the only member of the family who differed from this 
view ; and although I forgive him with all my heart, I 
am bound to state that it was owing to him that I 
appeared on the guillotine. 

The old man, who had led as stormy a life as it was 
possible for a man of his profession to lead, laboured 
under the belief that an executioner, no more than a 
king, could abdicate. He had remained at his post 
while everything around him was sinking ; all human 
powers had passed under his knife — royalty, genius,, 
eloquence, virtue, patriotism ; and a dark and morose 
humour had taken possession of the old man. 

As far as my recollection extends, I remember that 
he was very fond of gardening. He used to walk every 
morning over his well-sanded garden, watering his flowers,, 
and engrossing himself in the only occupation which 
gave him pleasure. I can still see him with his three- 



224 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

cornered hat, his knee-breeches, and thin-bladed sword ; 
he used to stop before the flowers he had reared himself, 
and he looked at them with something like tenderness. 
One day I remember that he exclaimed before a number 
of tulips of the finest red : 

* How fresh, how red they are ! If they saw them 
they would say that I water them with blood ! ' 

Young as I was, these words struck me. Some days 
before I had heard an absurd vampire story which 
bad left a deep impression on my mind. Somehow or 
other, the two ideas got together in my head, and in the 
evening I could not help asking my mother, as I tvas 
going to bed : 

* Mamma, grandfather says he waters his flowers with 
blood ; is it because he is a vampire } ' 

My mother started. ' Be quiet, Henri, be quiet,' 
she said ; ' who told you those nasty things } ' 

I then related to her the vampire story, and what I 
had heard in the garden. She made me promise not to 
say anything more about it. The circumstance passed 
away from my mind for a time. I was reminded of it 
later, and then I understood what my grandfather 
meant. 

Our position was more than prosperous ; in spite of 
the losses we had incurred under the Monarchy through 
the wretched state of the finances, our fortune was con- 
siderable. Chirurgery had always been a very produc- 
tive resource for our family. It is worth remarking that 
after the suppression of the right of /lavage, alluded to 
in the first part of this record, up to the establishment 



MV VOCATION. 



225 



in France of a regular administration, our salary was 
often nominal, for it was frequently left unpaid. It was 
only after the Revolution that we regularly received the 
remuneration attached to our office. It was mainly on 
their personal fortune that my ancestors subsisted. 
Howbeit the property which eventually came down to 
my hands was more than sufficient to guarantee my 
independence, and enable me not to have recourse to 
the guillotine to earn my bread. My family could then 
hope to see me forsake the traditional office without 
apprehension for my prospects. If my father, whose 
timid and good-natured disposition was altogether un- 
fitted for his profession, had been unable to shirk it, it 
was in consequence of certain circumstances which could 
in no way affect me. As I said before, and as the 
reader may have seen, my grandfather had curious 
notions, before the Revolution, on the legitimacy of his 
office, and he had brought up his son in the idea that he 
should take his place after his death. Obedience was 
always the first of virtues in our family, and my father 
had obeyed his father, but not, however, without internal 
struggles ; for I remember hearing my great-uncle, 
Charlemagne Sanson, say that more than once he had 
felt pity for his manifest distress in the executions which 
they both witnessed. Having submitted to his father's 
will, he however intended to educate me after his own 
fashion. He was deceived in his surmise, and I will 
presently explain how. 

I had just completed my seventh year when my 
grandfather died. He was very old, and his last 
VOL. II. Q 



226 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

moments were peaceful and free from suffering. Half an 
hour before his death he called my father to his bedside. 

^ Henri,' he said to him, 'I am going away, and I 
have to say to you a few parting words before I die. I 
am aware that you never liked your profession ; I think, 
' however, that I leave you a good example. Believe me, 
let us abide by the station which fate awarded to us. 
It is of no use to hope that the world will ever receive 
you : your origin can neither be forgotten nor forgiven. 
Do not take another occupation for yourself or your son. 
It would be a desertion from your duty. There has not 
been a single instance in our family of such desertion. 
Our family is certainly the most ancient and important 
in the profession ; but others have done as we have done. 
For a long time I sincerely believed that we were very 
useful to society, and that in no profession were self- 
denial and devotion shown more than in ours, but I have 
seen such singular events that my opinions are slightly 
altered now. Some day we may be suppressed, just as 
many other things have been suppressed. Until then 
be certain that no one has a right to blame or insult 
you. You are not responsible for the blood you shed. 
Do not forget that the judge who passes sentence is 
more responsible than you are.' 

The old man's strange legacy sealed my destiny. 

I had then no notion of what all this meant. But a 
few days after my grandfather's death, I heard a conver- 
sation between my father and my mother, the words of 
which return to my memory, so much do they remind 
me of my sacrificed existence. 



MV VOCATION. 227 

' Julia,' said my father, ' my father was right. It's of 
no use to try and get out of the groove. Henri would 
always be reminded of his origin by his more fortunate 
companions and friends, and he would be more unhappy 
in society than out of it. I don't want my son to blush 
for his father. Let him get as good an education as 
money can procure, but let him remain the son of 
Messieurs de Paris, and be true to his origin.' 

My mother made some objections, but these my 
father firmly resisted. 

* What profession could he possibly adopt } Every- 
body would spurn him. There is no law to prevent his 
entering some liberal profession ; but the laws of society 
are more pitiless than those of the State. Were he a 
barrister, no one would ever consent to appeal to the 
services of an executioner's son, and it would be the 
same in every other direction. Believe me, we are pro- 
viding for the best, and he will thank us afterwards for 
not making a " gentleman " of him.' 

Had I been a little older when I heard this, I have 
no doubt that my impression would have been far deeper 
than it was. It was the first indistinct intuition I had of 
the future which was reserved for me. 



Q2 



228 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 



CHAPTER XLVIII. 

MY EDUCATION. 

Apart from the domestic loss I have related in the 
preceding chapter, my childhood was happy and peace- 
ful. My grandmother outlived her husband, and she 
shared with my mother the management of the house. 
Our life was retired, but quiet and pleasant. A very 
limited number of friends came to see us on Sundays, 
but their number grew thinner every day. 

I must ask leave not to mention my mother's maiden 
name. She belonged to a family that was not of our 
profession, and the members of this family might be 
displeased if I revealed their relationship to me. Even 
my grandchildren might thereby discover their origin, 
for they know neither my name nor what I have been. 
I had a son, but he died ; and the name of Sanson shall 
therefore die with me. Such are the cruel consequences 
of the reprobation which attaches to our functions, and 
which haunts us even in our retreat after we have been 
fortunate enough to shake off the yoke. The bravi of 
the Republic of Venice constantly wore masks, and thus 
concealed their identity. This advantage is denied us. 

My mother gave me my first education. I was then 



'MV EDUCATION. 229 

handed over to the care of an old abbe who continued 
my mother's task. My instructor was kind, considerate, 
and clever ; and his death I considered as a great mis- 
fortune. The old man's demise caused much perplexity 
to my parents. They were fully aware of the necessity 
of not interrupting my studies ; but, on the other hand, 
they hesitated very much about sending me to school, 
where, should my origin be discovered, I could not but 
be despised and cold-shouldered by my schoolfellows. 
I may add that my father's profession was not yet 
known to me ; and although it was intended that I 
should follow the same calling, the secret had hitherto 
been kept back from me. It was to my mother that I 
was indebted for the continuation of my education. 
My father had just sold the old farm of Brie-Comte- 
Robert ; my mother persuaded him to buy a country- 
house in the neighbourhood of Paris, and close to one of 
the rural colleges that are so numerous in the suburbs 
of the capital. Brunoy was at last selected. My father 
bought there a pretty villa, and the purchase was made 
under the name of M. de Longval. It was under the 
first name of my ancestors that I went to school. 

The time I spent at Brunoy was the most pleasant 
period of my life. I liked school, and my schoolfellows 
liked me. But this happy existence was not of long 
duration ; winter obliged my family to return to Paris. 
I had just completed my twelfth year. My studies 
were rather advanced ; I had been taught music and 
drawing, for which I had a natural taste ; and my 
father, knowing how pernicious is the interruption of 



^3o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

studies at a critical age, resolved to send me to school . 
in Paris under my real name. Near our house was afl 
large * Institution ' which followed the classes of the 
Lyc6e Charlemagne. My father called on M. Michel, 
the head master, and asked him if he would admit me 
to his school. M. Michel was somewhat taken aback, 
but after a moment of reflection he resolutely accepted, 
observing, however, that it was preferable that I should 
conceal my origin from my companions. 

I then became a pupil of the Institution MicheL 
My life was pretty nearly what it had been at Brunoy. 
Every day we went to the Lycee under the superintend- 
ence of a crusty usher, and the remainder of our time 
was devoted to preparation. I was a day-boy, and I 
therefore enjoyed the privileges of home life. On 
Sundays we used to go to Brunoy, a place which I also 
saw with pleasure. 

At Brunoy I had formed none of those juvenile friend- 
ships which are so common at school. It was otherwise 
at the Institution Michel. I became very friendly with 
two or three schoolfellows of mine, and especially with 

T , whose parents, like mine, lived in the Faubourg 

Saint-Denis. He was also a day-boy. We used to 
leave school together in the evening, and we swore 

eternal friendship to each other. T was stronger 

than I was ; he often protected me against bullies, and 
I never lost an opportunity of showing him my gratitude. 
We were then the best friends in the world, the Damon 
and Pythias of the Institution Michel. On our way 
honie in the evening I used to leave T at his door. 



MV EDUCATION. 231 

and then I proceeded to our house in the Rue Neuve 
Saint-Jean. One evening, having left school earlier 

than usual, T had the evil inspiration to accompany 

me home. I accepted with much pleasure, and insisted 
that he should come in and see my family. But when 
my father and mother saw us^ I was extremely surprised 
and vexed on noticing the coldness with which they 
greeted my friend. Although dinner was served they 

did not ask him to sit down, and poor T went 

away, no doubt wondering at the strangeness of this 
reception. 

On the following day I went to school, still ponder- 
ing on this event. I was not surprised, after what had 

occurred, to find T far more reserved with me than 

was his wont. Whenever I went up to him he tried to 
avoid me, and hardly answered my questions. This 
demeanour towards me did not pass away, as I hoped it 

would ; T persisted in avoiding my company, and 

I was so vexed that I avoided him too, and tried to 
make other friends. But strange to say, all my other 
companions behaved with me in the same way. 

I was much pained at this unexplainable revulsion 
of feeling. I bore it for a few days, but at last I could 
hold out no longer. One morning I was waiting with 

T for our drawing-master ; I asked my late friend 

to explain his behaviour. * You are cruel, T ,' said 

I to him ; ' not only have you deprived me of your 
friendship, but you have spoken against me to our 
schoolfellows. I don't know what you told them, but 
there's not one of them who doesn't shun my company.' 



232 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

T looked at me intently, as if trying to guess 



my real thoughts ; he shrugged his shoulders and began 
drawing something on one of the pieces of paper lying 
on the table. 

* Now, I don't intend to stand this,' I resumed, 
angry at his silence; 'you must explain. I don't want; 
to be shunned and despised by my schoolfellows any 
longer. Is it because my father did not receive you 
well when you came to see us } I was sorrier than you 
were. But after all it was not my fault' 

T looked at me again, and then went on draw- 
ing. 

* Will you speak, I ask again t ' cried I, angrily. 
Instead of answering he held out to me the drawing 

he had just finished. It was a kind of estrade, sur- 
mounted by two beams, at the top of which was a large 
knife. A man was strapped to a plank between the 
two beams, and another man stood by holding a rope. 
It was a guillotine, with the sufferer and the executioner. 

Under this terrible drawing T had written in large 

letters : 

Tuus Pater Carnifex. 

I had never seen the instrument of death, but the 
words explained the whole thing to me. I knew what 
carnifex meant. I uttered a shriek and ran away, still 
holding the paper which had just revealed to me the 
misfortune of my birth, I ran out of school and did 
not stop until I was before our door. I rang violently, 
rushed towards my mother, who had witnessed my 



MY EDUCATION. 233 

entrance, and fell fainting at her feet. The whole 
house was in an uproar. My father was out, and when 
he returned he asked me the cause of my agitation. I 

told him of what had occurred, and produced T 's 

drawing. He doubtless thought that the time had come 
for an explanation, for he asked my mother and grand- 
mother to leave us alone. He then told me what and 
who he was ; he acquainted me with the history of our 
family, with the reasons that had induced fathers and 
sons to follow the same repulsive profession. He also 
told me of my grandfather's dying wish, and took 
advantage of what had occurred at school to show that I 
was bound to follow in his steps and those of my ances 
tors. I passed with him one of the most painful hours 
of my life ; but I was young and submissive ; his reasons 
were well put and forcible ; I had no alternative but to 
submit, and I submitted. The fact that so many mem- 
bers of my family had been executioners impressed me 
more than anything else ; it seemed to me that to dis- 
card them was impossible, that my destiny was traced 
in advance ; and I accepted it with grief but with re- 
signation. 

On the following day my father received the visit of 

M. Michel, who had questioned T and discovered 

the reason of my disappearance. The worthy school- 
master assured my father that he would prevent the 
recurrence of such a mishap as had occurred to me ; 

that he had scolded T , and threatened with instant 

expulsion whoever followed his example. My father 
asked me if I wished to return to school. I replied 



234 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 






that I did not, as the instruction I had already acquired 
was more than sufficient for the duties reserved for me. 
I nevertheless thanked M. Michel for his kindness. 
My father made no objection, and henceforth I enjoyed 
the fullest liberty. 

I occupied myself with perhaps more wisdom than 
boys of my age usually do. I remained in the morning 
with my mother and grandmother. With the latter 
only did I dare to speak of my future career ; with my 
mother I never thought of alluding to the subject. As 
to my father, I seldom saw him alone. I went out in 
the afternoon either to loaf about or to attend the 
lectures of well-known professors of the Sorbonne. It 
was thus that I took the habit — which I have retained 
to this day — of long walks. Since my adventure with 

T I thought everybody in the street recognised me. 

This led me to enter and leave our house stealthily, 
enveloped in a large cloak, and looking around uneasily. 
It was thus that after being gay and expansive I became 
dark and taciturn. 

I returned home at dinner time, and no one ever 
thought of asking me where I had been and what I had 
been about. Up to the time when I acquired a strong 
liking for the drama, I used to spend my evenings in 
our drawing-room with my parents and the few friends 
who occasionally came to see us. None of our assistants 
were ever received there ; the assistants lived in a sepa- 
rate part of the house. 

We had a large library composed of rare books and 
MSS. I found there the treasures of ancient and 



MY EDUCATION. 



23S 



modern literature, and read them with avidity. It was 
thus that I became famihar with the works of Beccaria, 
Filangieri, Montesquieu, and Joseph de Maistre. A 
work which especially impressed me was the * Soirees 
de Saint Petersbourg ' by the last named writer. 
Although I instinctively protested against the doctrine 
expounded by the author of the necessity of the effusion 
of human blood, the paradox impressed me. If capital 
punishment is justifiable, I used to argue, the most 
important functionary of social order should be the 
executioner. But, by a singular contrast, the more I 
became reconciled with the executioner the more I 
loathed capital punishment. I felt violent propensities 
of rebellion against society, whose prejudices soil with 
mud the basis of its edifice ; and fits of indignation 
against the law by which society transgresses the rights 
of the Divinity. I erected a pedestal for the executioner, 
and I abominated execution. My life has been spent 
in such mental struggles. 

My grandmother was the usual recipient of my im- 
pressions. I liked to converse with her on a subject 
which held so important a place in my meditations. 
She spoke on the subject with a freedom which enabled 
me to examine her arguments with more coolness than 
I could otherwise have shown. The temerity of her 
arguments was arrested by no feminine sensitiveness. 
Strangely enough, grandmothers in our family had the 
greatest influence over the destiny of grandsons, and 
the wife of Charles Henri Sanson was as much respon- 
sible for the perpetuation of our office as Martha Dubut 



.236 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

lierself. She was clever, insinuating, and free-spoken ; 
and she gained over me an ascendency which neither 
my father nor my mother possessed. She made me 
familiar with every paradox calculated to drive away 
my instinctive horror for my future profession. 

I said, I believe, that I acquired a taste for the 
theatre. The tragedy was then in favour. Talma, 
Mdlle. Georges, and Mdlle. Duchesnois formed such a 
trio as has rarely been equalled. My liking for the 
play increased so that I went there almost every night. 
There was then a rivalry between Mdlle. Duchesnois 
and Mdlle. Georges ; I became one of the ardent parti- 
sans of the latter. Merope and Semiramis enchanted me 
when they appeared before me under the features of 
Georges. Unfortunately the literature of the time was 
not at the height of such artists as Talma, Georges, 
Duchesnois, and Mars. On my return home I was only 
too glad to confide my impressions to my mother. We 
even talked of the theatre at table, and my father often 
joined in the conversation. I was surprised to find that 
he was as well acquainted with the daily occurrences of 
the stage as I was. Once I could not help saying : 

* Father, I am sure you go to the theatre yourself.' 

* Why shouldn't I, Henri } * he answered, smiling. 
^ I am not so religious as these ladies,' he added, point- 
ing to my mother and grandmother, who never went to 
the play. 

* Why shouldn't we go together 1 ' I exclaimed ; 
* we should enjoy ourselves far more.' 

My father turned grave, and said : 



MV EDUCATION. 237 

* No, Henri ; we had better go separately. This 
does not prevent us from talking about plays, but I had 
rather you should go alone, and not be seen in my 
company.' 

I was much moved. It was obvious that my father 
was afraid of casting odium upon me before my time. 
His prudence was extreme ; we never went out together. 
Whenever we were compelled to go in each other's 
company he ordered his carriage, and no one could see 
us behind the blinds. 

This quiet existence was interrupted by a sad event. 
On October 24, 18 17, one of the chambermaids found 
my grandmother dead in her bed. She was in her 
eighty-fourth year. My father was much grieved at 
this loss. I also grieved over the loss of my grand- 
mother, whom I had learnt to love. During mourning 
time I was of course obliged to give up the amuse- 
ments I used to indulge in. This gave me a pretext 
for carrying out a plan I had made a long time before. 
My readings had inspired me with a wish to see Italy, 
Germany, Switzerland, and Holland. My mother did 
not encourage me, as she was loath to separate from 
me, but my father readily gave his consent. * You are 
quite right, Henri,' he said ; * nothing instructs so much 
as travelling. Go, and a pleasant journey to you ! ' 

I left Paris two days after. Means of locomotion 
were, of course, far more primitive then than they are 
now. However, I successively visited in a comparatively 
short time Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland. 
I saw Rome, Naples, and Venice, and I was immensely 



1238 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

impressed by the artistic and natural beauties which 
passed before me. I did not remain long in Switzer- 
land, but I remained for nearly six months on the banks 
of the Rhine. What struck me the most during the 
whole of my voyage was, I must confess, Amsterdam. 
My roving life was charming ; and I was quite taken 
aback when I found that it had lasted over a year. It 
was with regret that, out* of deference to my mother's 
ivish, I turned again homeward and made for Paris. 

The reader may perhaps be astonished at the easy and 
almost brilliant fashion of living of a family of executioners; 
but then it should not be forgotten that my father's for- 
tune, not to speak of his emoluments, amounted to 
nearly 20,000/., and that I was his only child. 

A year after my return, I remarked, in the restricted 
circle of our acquaintances, a young girl, whose eyes 
were often fixed upon me with a singular expression. I 
fancied she talked about me to my mother ; and mere 
curiosity at first induced me to remain at home more 
frequently than was my wont. The young person used 
to come with her family ; I made her acquaintance, and 
I soon perceived that I was in love with her. This pas- 
sion developed itself so rapidly, that I spoke about it 
to the young lady, and asked her permission to seek her 
hand — a permission which was duly given. I had the 
courage to acquaint her with the eventualities of the 
future. I frankly explained my position, and did not 
conceal from her the obligation under which I laboured 
of being my father's successor. One can imagine my 
agreeable surprise when I heard her approve of my in- 



MV EDUCATION. 239 

tentions, and encourage me to persevere in them. So 
much courage and, I may say, love on the part of so 
young a girl increased my affection for her, and I 
resolved to marry her as soon as possible. 

On the following day I went to my father's closet, 
and asked the favour of a conversation. He was rather 
surprised, for I had hitherto shunned solemn parleys with 
him. ' Father,' I began, ' I am the bearer of good news. 
I know that in spite of your desire to see me follow in 
your steps, you would not for a moment compel me to 
do so. I have thought the matter over for the last two 
years, and I have now to express my resolve to select 
no other profession than yours.' 

My father did not reply, but I saw that he was 
deeply moved. He took me in his arms and embraced 
me. 

* And now,' I continued, * I have to speak of some- 
thing else. You told me once that whenever I should feel 
inclined to marry you would not interfere with my wish. 

I love Miss , and she has been good enough to say 

that my affection is reciprocated. I came to request 
you, father, to ask her hand in my name.' 

At this my father expressed great satisfaction. Not 
only did he promise to do as I wished, but he said that 
previously he and my mother hoped that a match might 
eventually be arranged, and he was very glad to find 
that their wishes were fulfilled. 

On the evening of the same day my father dis- 
charged his promise. Miss 's father slightly hesi- 
tated on account of our extreme youth (our ages, put 



240 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

together, but just amounted to five-and-thlrty years), but 
we had no difficulty in overcoming his scruples. 

A month after, our marriage was celebrated at Saint- 
Laurent Church ; and my young wife and I took posses- 
sion of a cosy apartment in my father's house, which my 
mother had furnished and prepared for us. 

The recollections of my youth end here. They con- 
clude, like novels, by a marriage. It is no fault of mine 
if my story is not as stirring as fiction. It has at least 
the advantage of being true. 



241 



CHAPTER XLIX. 

MY FIRST EXECUTION. 

The first year of my marriage was calm and peaceable. 
I had every reason to be happy. Thanks to the cares 
of rny good mother, we had very little to think of be- 
yond our pleasures and comforts. My young wife was 
as cheerful and kind as she was pretty, and our union 
promised to be one of undisturbed harmony. 

My father made no allusion to my promise to take 
his office ; but that promise was constantly in my mind ; 
it was the only thought that clouded my happiness. 
Sometimes I looked with sadness at my young partner, 
thinking that a time should come for her to assume in 
her turn the title of Madame de Paris. The fulfilment 
of my pledge was even nearer at hand than I expected. 
My father was taken ill in the middle of the winter of 
1819, and he was laid up for two months. His constant 
preoccupation during his illness was a sentence of death 
passed by the assize court of the Seine on a soldier of 
the Royal Guard, Pierre Charles Rodolphe Foulard, who 
had murdered two unfortunate women, to steal a watch 
and a pair of earrings. Foulard was barely twenty years 

VOL. II. R 



242 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

of age, but his crime was so atrocious that there was no 
hope of a reprieve for him. Foulard's case, however, 
had still to pass before the Court of Revision ; but my 
father felt that his health would not permit him to 
superintend the execution. He was thinking of appeal- 
ing to one of his provincial colleagues. This was rather 
awkward, as it was well known that I was to be my 
father's successor, and the judicial authorities might well 
inquire why I did not act as his substitute. Since my 
marriage I had made a point of following my father in 
the few executions that had occurred, but I had taken 
no active part in them. I may add that my father's 
part was hardly more active than mine ; he had said the 
truth when he told me that almost everything was done 
by the assistants, and that the executioner only super- 
intended what his servants did. 

The time came for Foulard's execution ; it came 
sooner than my father expected, so that he was unable 
to secure some one else's services. He was much better, 
but certainly not well enough to resume his duties ; and 
my conscience smote me when he expressed his deter- 
mination to risk his health, perhaps his life, and execute 
Foulard. I said to myself that, since I must begin, I 
had better begin at once, and I proposed to my father to 
take his place. 

He gladly acquiesced, and gave me all the necessary 
instructions ; he also pointed out two assistants on whose 
zeal I could especially rely ; and finally I was assured 
that my attendance at the execution was little more 
than a formality. The assistants entered my father's 



MV FIRST EXECUTION. 243 

room just as I was leaving it, and he made them a short 
speech in which he urged them to afford me their best 
help and protection. 

I was very nervous and frightened ; nevertheless, I 
strictly acted upon the instructions furnished to me, and 
I gave the necessary directions to the carpenters. As 
night came on, my discomfort increased. I could scarcely 
eat any dinner. Fortunately my father was in his room, 
otherwise he might have insisted on doing the work 
himself My mother and my wife were as uneasy as I 
was, but they abstained from making any observation 
on the matter. After dinner I retired to my room, and 
passed one of the worst nights of my life. When I got 
up next morning I was feverish and tired. The assist- 
ants were waiting for me in the courtyard. My father 
had ordered out his carriage for me, and with my new 
servants I silently proceeded to the Conciergerle. The 
horses went slowly enough, yet the journey seemed to 
me fearfully short. 

It was yet dark when we entered that dismal prison. 
My assistants followed me at a short distance. I thought 
I saw an expression of disdain on the faces of the turn- 
keys and prison officials. I was in no humour to brook 
the contempt of men whose position, after all, did not 
much differ from mine. I assumed a sharp and impera- 
tive tone calculated to make them understand that I was 
not to be imposed upon, and ordered the head gaoler to 
hand us over the culprit. He led us into a low-ceilinged 
hall, where Foulard shortly after appeared, accompanied 
by the worthy Abbe Montes, a priest whose friendship I 

R 2 



244 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



afterwards acquired. Foulard's consternation struck me 
The unfortunate boy was under age ; had his father left 
him the smallest sum of money he could not have 
touched it ; nevertheless he was considered responsible. 
This appeared to me iniquitous, the more so as I was only 
a year older than he. Foulard was a tall and handsome 
fellow, and his face betrayed no signs of the perversity 
he had shown in the perpetration of his horrible deed. 

Fauconnier, my chief assistant, saw I was flurried ; 
he came forward and told Foulard to sit down. When 
the young man's hair was cut, we got into the cart : the 
Abbe Montes and Foulard were behind us, and I stood in 
front with my two assistants.^ The almoner of the Con- 
ciergerie doubtless perceived that I required encourage- 
ment and support as well as the man whose life I was 
going to take, for he spoke to me with much kindness : 
' I see, sir, that you are now attending to your father's 
duties. Such missions as yours demand no small amount 
of courage. We are invested Avith duties which in some 
degree are akin : you represent the justice of men, I 
represent the mercy of God. You may be assured of 
my good disposition towards you, and of my readiness 
to assist you whenever it is in my power.' 

I could not find a single word to answer, although I 
felt intensely grateful to the Abbe Montes for his kind- 
ness. Foulard was taciturn, but when we reached the 

1 Until then my father and grandfather had occupied a back seat beside 
the priest, and assigned a front place to the culprit. I was the first to 
alter this custom. My object was to leave the culprit with his last friend, 
the priest. I hope this does not appear childish. I acted with the best 
intention, and I believe I acted rightly. 



I 



MY FIRST EXECUTION. 245 

quay he became very excited, and cried out in a loud 
voice : 

* Fathers and mothers ! behold the consequences of 
neglect of one's children ! I am guilty, but my parents 
are responsible for my crime, for they gave me neither 
advice nor education.' 

We reached the Place de Greve. The guillotine 
raised her two red arms, and the pale rays of a winter 
sun were reflected by the polished steel of the knife. A 
great many people were looking on. Foulard embraced 
the priest, and looked round before ascending the steps. 
In the first rank of the soldiers who surrounded the 
guillotine he saw a sergeant of his company. ' Come 
to me, my old comrade,' he cried to him, 'and let 
me bid you farewell.' The old soldier did not hesitate ; 
he came forward and embraced the dying man. Foulard 
was very excited. He suddenly turned to me : * Let me 
embrace you too,' he said, * if only to show that I forgive 
everybody.' This, I confess, gave me a fearful blow. I 
stepped back. I really think that if the unfortunate 
man had embraced me I could not have given the 
signal for his death. 

But even in this I am mistaken ; this signal I did not 
give. My assistants saw my movement of retreat and 
understood the peril. They pushed Foulard up the 
steps. In less time than I take to write it he was 
strapped down and his head fell. I looked stupidly at 
the bloody scene. I saw one of the assistants pushing 
the headless trunk into a basket, while another was 
sponging the blood which had spurted on the scaffold. 



246 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

I was seized with irresistible terror, and I ran away as 
fast as my legs could carry me. I wandered about 
town hardly knowing what I was about. I thought 
people were following and hooting me. It was only 
when I found myself at Neuilly that I recovered, and 
even then my conscience smote me bitterly. At last I 
made up my mind. I had crossed the line, there was no 
help for it ; I had, as it were, passed my examination of 
executioner, and I could not return on my steps. I 
went home subdued, if not comforted, and I found some 
relief in the thought that the first step was made, and the 
first bitterness had passed. 



247 



CHAPTER L. 

LOUVEL. 

It is erroneous to say that the first step is everything, 
but it is certainly that which is the most trying. I never 
got rid of my natural disgust for my profession, but my 
emotions were far less intense after my first execution. 
From that time I regularly replaced my father, or I ac- 
companied him whenever he appeared on the scaffold. 
In the course of the same year (1819) we had to go 
twice to Beauvais ; the first time for the execution of a 
parricide named Moroy, the second time for that of a 
murderer called Liebe. 

On May 13 of the following year the guillotine was 
again erected on the Place de Greve for a young man of 
twenty-two, Charles Normand, condemned to death for 
having murdered Captain Sion, his master. 

Few people were seen on the Greve on the day of 
execution. Paris, the whole of France, were engrossed 
by another drama, of which the denoueine^it was also to 
come off on the Place de Gr^ve. Three months before, 
the heir of the elder branch of the Bourbon family, the 
Duke de Berri, had been murdered. The assassin was 



248 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

arrested immediately ; he said his name was Pierre 
Louvel, he was a saddler by trade. Louvel confessed 
that his object in murdering the last scion of an illustri- 
ous family was political ; he wanted, he said, to extin- 
guish the race of the Bourbons for ever. Fate went 
against him, for six months after the Duchess de Berri 
was delivered of a child who was to be the Comte de 
Chambord. 

Louvel was an enthusiastic republican. His life was 
pure and honest, but he was a fanatic, and for several 
years he brooded over his intended crime. It was soon 
discovered that he had no accomplices, and his trial was 
proceeded with. Louvel received with haughtiness his 
advocates, MM. Archambault and Bonnet; he requested 
them to say nothing that might be in contradiction 
with his previous declarations. He had committed his 
crime alone, he said, and he had been prompted by 
patriotism. He felt no regret j he even intended, had 
he escaped, to murder the other members of the royal 
family. * I might, perhaps, have cpared the King,' he 
added, * because he was the only member of the family 
who had not fought against France.' 

The trial began on June 5, before the House of Peers. 
It only lasted two days. Several peers, MM. Desize, 
De Lally-Tollendal, and De Montmorency, questioned 
Louvel closely, but no other facts than those he had 
already given were elicited. The issue of the trial could 
not be doubtful ; before sentence was passed, however, 
Louvel rose and read the following statement : 

* I have now to answer for a crime which I com- 



I 



LOU V EL. 249 

mitted unaided. In dying I am consoled by the thought 
that I have dishonoured neither my country nor my 
family. I can only be regarded as a Frenchman re- 
solved to sacrifice himself in order to destroy, according 
to my system, a number of the men who took up arms 
against his country. But among the men who compose 
the Government there are some as guilty as I am ; they 
have described crimes as virtues. The worst govern- 
ments in France have always punished traitors, and in 
striking the Duke de Berri I was discharging a sacred 
duty. 

* According to my system, when the country is 
threatened from the outside, political parties should for- 
get party-feeling and join hands against the common 
enemy. Those who do not act thus are guilty. In 
my opinion, if the Battle of Waterloo was so fatal to 
France, it was because Brussels and Ghent were full of 
Frenchmen who fomented treason in the ranks of our 
army. 

' In my opinion, the death of Louis XVI. was neces- 
sary, because he betrayed, or wanted to betray, France 
into the hands of the enemy. The Bourbons are eter- 
nally tainted with treason, and they have no right to 
reign in France ; they deserve punishment, and I have 
been one of the instruments of national justice.' 

After this declaration Louvel was taken back to the 
Conciergerie, and the House deliberated. Sentence of 
death was unanimously pronounced, and the clerk of the 
House was sent to communicate the sentence to Louvel. 
He received the news unabashed. ' So much the better/ 



250 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 






he said ; ' I am very glad to die. A reprieve would 
cause me more pain than death itself.' He sternly re- 
fused the assistance of religion. ' I don't want to go to 
paradise,' said he, laughing ; ' I might meet there the 
Duke d'Enghien, who fought against his country, and I 
could never agree with him.' The Abbe Montes, how- 
ever, obtained admittance to his cell and endeavoured to 
soften his heart. ^ 

As to us, last actors of all these dismal dramas, we 
received on June 6, in the evening, an order to take the 
culprit on the following morning and to behead him on 
the Place de Greve. In deference to this order, my 
father and I went to the Conciergerie on the 7th, accom- 
panied by four assistants. We found there a second 
order, which deferred the execution until half-past five 
o'clock P.M. We therefore waited until that time, won- 
dering at the cause of this delay. The scaffold had 
been, of course, erected on the Greve, and an immense 
crowd gathered around it. 

At half-past five we went to Louvel's cell, but my 
father suddenly remarked that no clerk was present, and 
another quarter of an hour was lost in fetching one. At 
a quarter to six exactly we ' took possession ' of Louvel ; 
one of the assistants tied his hands, while another was 

^ Culprits — religious culprits, of course — have no doubt derived benefit 
and consolation from the advice of the Roman Catholic priest who invari- 
ably attended them to execution. But it may have been seen in the course 
of the above Meinoirs that spiritual advisers forced their exhortations upon 
convicts of all kinds, whether religious or not, thereby adding another tor- 
ment to that of impending death. This merciless tender of consolation to 
men who persistently refuse to hear it cannot but appear as cruel as it is 
disgusting. — N. Ed. 



LOUVEL. 



251 



cutting his hair and the collar of his shirt. Louvel, who 
was thirty-six years of age, was a middle-sized man ; his 
forehead was high and bumpy, and his eyes were deep- 
set and fierce. His face, on the whole, was anything but 
prepossessing. When the 'toilette' was complete, he 
asked for his hat, alleging his baldness. We then started 
for the Greve. I cannot say why, but I had an idea that 
the execution would not take place ; I thought that the 
royal family would take into consideration the dying wish 
of the Duke de Berri, who had asked for Louvel's pardon. 
Moreover, I always felt prompted to put off the hour of 
death, in order to give the victim every possible chance 
of escape. Louvel's only hope of salvation in the pre- 
sent circumstance, was to pretend that he had revelations 
to make ; and I said to my father, loud enough for 
Louvel to hear : 

* If he has accomplices he should say so now, as it is 
the only means of putting off the execution.' 

The Abbe Montes heard this, and turning to the cul- 
prit : 

' You hear, my friend,' said he ; * you had better speak 
out while there is time yet.' 

Louvel drily replied : * I have nothing to say.' 

We reached the guillotine, and the culprit was about 
to ascend to the platform, when the Abbe Montes caught 
hold of his arm, and said, ' Kneel down, my son, and ask 
God's forgiveness for your crime.' 

' Never, sir,' answered Louvel, haughtily ; ' I do not 
regret what I have done, and I would do it again, if 
necessary.' 



I 



253 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

* But, my friend, you have but one last effort to mak< 
to go to heaven. Come, be humble ' 

^I shall go to heaven, just as you will, if there is' 
one. Leave me alone, pray ; think of yourself, not of 

I 

* My dear child, I beseech you,' insisted the abb6> 
think of the salvation of your soul ; say that you re- 
pent.' 

' Sir,' indignantly retorted Louvel, ' I have alread 
done a good many things to please you ; you are step 
ping beyond the bounds of your duty.' ^ 

Hardly had Louvel said these words than he as- 
cended the steps so rapidly that the assistants were 
obliged to hold him back. He took his place unaided 
on the fatal plank, and at six o'clock precisely Louvel's 
head fell into the basket. 

We took the corpse to the cemetery of the Barri^re 
du Maine, but we were afterwards ordered to dig it up 
and bury it in another spot. The secret of this new 
burial remained unknown to all, save to the executioner 
and his assistants, who, on this occasion only, acted as 
gravediggers. 

* The highly improper discussion raised by the Abbe Montes at the foot 
of the scaffold confirms a preceding note. — N. Ed. 



253 



CHAPTER LI. 

MY EXECUTIONS. 

On December 6, 1820, the scaffold was again erected on 
the Place de Greve for a young man, Pierre Louis 
Martin, who had murdered his father. He was led to 
the scaffold with a black veil over his head, and, in ac- 
cordance with the penalty edicted against parricides, his 
fist was cut off before he was beheaded. It was the first 
time I saw this kind of punishment. The same sentence 
was executed on July 21, 1821, on a man named Nicolas 
Boutillier, who had murdered his mother. 

On August II, in the same year, we were sent to 
Melun to execute one Joseph Gratureau. 

A gentleman's blood was shed on the scaffold on 
October 19. The Viscount de Ruault, officer on half- 
pay, was sentenced to death for trying to murder General 
Dujon. He died with great courage. 

Six days later it was the turn of a coachman, named 
Jacques Louis Houster, sentenced for the murder of his 
mistress. 

On January 9, 1822, we executed another young man 
under age, Jules Louis Theophile Guichet, for the murder 
of a woman. 



254 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

On April 2 following we went to Versailles and exe- 
cuted Pierre Roux, wine-merchant, and Jacques Antoine 
Lecourt, a working man, who had killed a man on the 
road to Essonne. Their object was theft. 

On the 20th of the same month we had to go to 
Beauvais for a double execution ; that of Louis Nicolas 
Mahon, upholsterer, and Charles Mancheron, labourer, 
convicted of having murdered a young man they hated. 
The execution took place at mid-day. 

On July 27 following we went again in the depart- 
ment of Oise, but this time our halting-place was Com- 
piegne. The whole department was in a state of terror 
in consequence of the large number of fires which were 
■constantly taking place throughout the locality. The 
judicial authorities wished to make an example. A pork- 
butcher, named Louis Charlemagne Gosslin, was found 
guilty of having set fire to twenty-two houses in a single \ 
village. He was executed at twelve on the Place de 
I'Hotel-de-Ville, at Compiegne ; he showed great cool- 
ness, and to the last protested that he was innocent. 

All provincial executions used to take place in the 
public square at mid-day in presence of large crowds. 
The custom of executing in the middle of the day waj 
also being adopted in Paris. Things have altered since 
then ; nowadays, one executes at dawn, before the prison 
gate ; a mysterious veil is cast, as it were, over the pro- 
ceedings, as if the law were ashamed of what it is doing. 




LAFAYETii. i, .UK UNIFORM OF A MAJOR-GENER- ! 

AL OF THE CONTINENTAL ARMY. — FROM AN j 

ENGRAVING BY J. DE MARE. i 



MY EXECUTIONS, 255 



I. The four Sergeants of La Roche lie. 

On September 2 1 my father and I went to the Con- 
ciergerie on a very sad errand. This time we had not 
to deal with ordinary criminals prompted to crime by 
the vilest passions ; our victims, in the present case, 
were four unfortunate young men, victims of political 
fanaticism and of the secret intrigues of a party which 
tried to sap the throne of the Bourbons during the whole 
of the Restoration. It is not within my province to 
give a history of carbo7iarisin — of that secret association 
imported from Italy, which counted princes as well as 
artisans in its ranks. The society was composed of 
ventas, or small groups of conspirators, who acted upon 
directions from a superior council. Precautions were 
taken to render the discovery of the society as a whole 
almost impossible. A batch of well-known men, 
Lafayette, Dupont, Manuel, Voyer d'Argenson, Ben- 
jamin Constant, Foy, Laffitte, &c., not content with the 
-agitation they fomented in public assemblies and in the 
press, put themselves at the head of an active permanent 
conspiracy, the first effects of which were to be fatal to 
their obscure accomplices. 

The army had never been attached to the restored 
Bourbons ; the conspirators endeavoured to spread dis- 
affection among the soldiers. In one instance at least 
they were successful. A venta was formed in the 45th 
line regiment. In the 45th there was a young sergeant 
of exalted views, generous aspirations, and great per 



256 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 






sonal advantages, who had much influence over his 
companions. Bories (such was his name) was tall, 
handsome, and precociously eloquent ; he was a man of 
no ordinary cast, and the carbonari pitched upon him as 
a highly useful recruit. Bories was only too disposed 
to enter into their views ; he organised a venta in the 
45th, and gave several of his comrades the dagger which 
was the symbol of the secret association. 

In spite of the religious secrecy maintained by the 
conspirators of the 45 th, they were soon regarded with 
suspicion. They were too young to conspire effectually ; 
they did not sufficiently conceal their feelings, and this 
was enough to awaken the attention of their superiors; 
At the time of a foiled attempt of General Berton's at 
Saumur, Bories was already arrested, although he had 
given no signal of insurrection. But treason came in ; 
Goupillon, one of the youngest plotters, revealed the 
secret of the venta to the colonel of the regiment, and 
on the same evening all those concerned in carbonarisnt 
were arrested. 

Almost every one of them admitted their crime. 
Bories alone persisted in a system of flat denial. 
Promises no more than threats could induce him to 
speak out. All the accused were transferred to Paris. 
At the Conciergerie Bories resumed his leadership. He 
wished to take the responsibility of the whole aflair and 
save his companions. Ardent as he was in his demo- 
cratic faith, he was also desirous to prevent any dis- 
covery that might have proved damaging to his cause ; 
and he agreed with his friends that whatever might 



MV EXECUTIONS. 257 

occur they should in no way compromise the success of 
their cause. The prisoners acted upon this system of 
defence in the trial, which began on August 21, 1822. 

Twenty-five persons were implicated. These were : 
Massias, captain ; Bories, sergeant-major; Henon, school- 
master ; Baradere, barrister ; Gauran, surgeon ; Rose, 
clerk ; Pommier, sergeant-major ; Goubin, Raoulx, and 
Amis, sergeants ; Goupillon, Bicheron, Laboure, Cochet, 
Castille, Lutron, Hue, Barlet, Perrion, Lefebvre, Thomas, 
Gautier, Lecoq, Dariotscy, and Demais, soldiers. The 
trial lasted a fortnight. The prisoners did as they had 
agreed ; they denied the charges, and left Bories to bear 
the brunt of the danger. With admirable self-abnega- 
tion he admitted everything, and it was no fault of his 
if he was not the only victim. It was in vain that the 
counsel did their utmost to save some of their clients. 
The Procureur-General was pitiless : ' No human elo- 
quence,' he exclaimed, 'could save the life of Bories.* 
Before the close of the trial the President of the Court 
asked the prisoners if they had anything to say. Bories 
was the only one who answered. Faithful to his gene- 
rous intention, he rose, and in a firm and grave voice he 
pronounced the following words : 

' Gentlemen of the Jury : You have heard the in- 
dictment, the witnesses, and the debates of our trial ; 
and after what you heard you were, no doubt, surprised 
when M. le Procureur said " that no human eloquence 
could save my life." He pointed me out as the leader. 
I accept the responsibility. Happy shall I be if my 
death can save my companions.' 

VOL. II. S 



258 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



\ 



These noble expressions did not produce the requi- 
site effect. Bories, Pommier, Raoulx, and Goubin, the 
four sergeants of La Rochelle, were sentenced to death. 
Different penalties were inflicted upon the other prison- 
ers. The four young men listened with perfect calmness 
to the sentence which forfeited their lives. Bories turned 
to his counsel, gave him a jewel, and asked him to hand 
it over to a person whose address he gave him. The 
secret of this message was only known later. During 
thirty years since the execution of Bories and his com- 
panions, I saw a woman who at first was young and 
then turned prematurely old, going every morning to 
the Mont Parnasse cemetery; she placed a flower on 
Bories' grave and then silently withdrew. The poor 
woman died a few years ago. She was Bories' sweet- 
heart. 

The four sergeants were transferred to Bicetre. 
Three of them, Goubin, Raoulx, and Pommier, had 
appealed against the decision of the Court ; but when 
they heard that Bories had refused to avail himself of 
this last chance of salvation, they followed his example 
and withdrew their appeal. An attempt was made by 
the party to which they belonged to bribe the governor 
of Bicetre and enable the prisoners to escape ; but the 
governor's uncle — an unworthy priest — betrayed the 
secret and thereby frustrated all other plans of the same 
kind. 

On September 21 Bories and his companions were 
taken to the Conciergerie. They one and all declined 
the consolations of religion. When they entered the 




LOUIS XVIII., KING OF FRANCE 



MY EXECUTIONS. 259 

room whence they were to be transferred to the guillo- 
tine, Bories spoke to his three friends : ' Dear comrades,' 
he said, * our time is come ; let us show that we were 
worthy of our cause. Forgive me for having led you to 
this miserable death. Our blood shall not flow without 
result. Long live liberty ! ' 

The three sergeants rushed into his arms, repeating 
his cry with extraordinary enthusiasm. The toilet 
began ; they all submitted to it with noble dignity. 
Raoulx, the youngest, was the most cheerful. * Poor 
Raoulx ! ' said he, alluding to his short stature, ' what 
shall remain of you when your head is gone } ' Our 
departure from the Conciergerie was appointed for four 
o'clock P.M. ; we were still at the prison at five o'clock. 
During this long hour the Council of Ministers was 
deliberating on the question whether the convicts should 
be reprieved or not King Louis XVI 1 1., it was said, 
was in favour of clemency ; Monsieur, his brother, and 
his friends were for execution, and the latter opinion 
prevailed. Vain efforts were made to obtain revelations 
from the four sergeants. They refused to answer, say- 
ing that they preferred death to dishonour. 

At five o'clock we started for the Greve. There was 
a numerous gathering of soldiers and gendarmes, for 
the authorities apprehended an attempt to save the 
prisoners. At the foot of the scafl"old the four young 
men again refused to listen to the exhortations of the 
ecclesiastic who was with them. Bories, being a Pro- 
testant, had more reasons than his friends to decline the 
services of a Catholic clergyman. They again embraced, 



26o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

and then the youngest stepped forward and gave him- 
self up to us. He advanced on the platform with an 
unfaltering step, and while he was being strapped to the 
plank he cried : ^ Vive la liberie ! ' 

Goubin came next, and he displayed as much forti- 
tude as Raoulx. He also cried in a clear and firm 
voice : ' Vive la liberie ! ' 

Pommier was the third victim ; he uttered the same 
cry as his friends. 

At last Bories' turn came. The sight of a treble 
execution had at last shaken the young sergeant's 
stoicism, and his eyes were full of tears ; but he re- 
covered his self-possession on reaching the platform, 
and looking at the crowd below he said : 

* Brothers, if I am weeping, it is not for myself but for 
my poor friends who have just been killed before me. 
To-day you are silent ; but a time shall come when you 
will repeat my last cry of " Vive la liberie !'' ' 

He was pushed towards the plank, and his head fell 
into the basket. Eight years after a conquering people 
entered the H6tel-de-Ville and overthrew the last of 
the Bourbons, to the dying cry of the four sergeants of 
La Rochelle. 



H. Castaing. 

It is the executioner's fate to fall from political victims 
to the most vulgar criminals, and vice versa. Before 
passing to the year 1823 I have to mention two cases, 
not of execution, but of exhibition on the scaffold. 




Enf" 



SA]R]RAZIW 






'Z^i 



I Krtractrfl p-nvi the Fhiljjsovha .• 



AIV EXECUTIONS. 261 

Firstly, that of Cognard, calling himself Count de Saint- 
Helene ; and secondly, that of General Jean Sarrasin. 
The history of the former is well known. He was an 
escaped convict, and had taken possession of the papers 
of the real Count de Saint-Helene, who died in Spain 
under suspicious circumstances. Cognard happened to 
resemble the Count ; he returned to France, passed 
himself off for the dead nobleman, was accepted as 
such, led a brilliant life, and rose to the highest military 
dignities, until he was identified by a fellow convict. 
Cognard was sentenced to hard labour for life, and to 
exhibition on the scaffold. The hardened ruffian suf- 
fered punishment with extreme cynicism, and died at 
Toulon sixteen years after his identification. 

Sarrasin was no impostor; he was a real general. 
His crime was polygamy, for which he was sentenced 
to ten years' imprisonment and to exhibition during an 
hour. He had married three wives : one in Italy, another 
in England, and a third one in France. 

My next execution occurred on May 21, 1823. The 
culprit was a German tailor of the name of Feldtmann, 
who had murdered his daughter. On July 18 follow- 
ing, my father and I executed at Montreuil an agri- 
cultural labourer, named Laizier, who had murdered his 
father-in-law. 

On December 6 of the same year I had to take the 
life of one of those great criminals who might be called 
the lions of crime because they have the privilege of 
engrossing public attention ; I allude to Edme-Samuel 
Castaing, physician, aged 27. Castaing poisoned two 



262 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 



A 



of his intimate friends — two brothers named Ballet — 
after inducing them to bequeath their property to their 
friend and doctor. Castaing was sentenced to death on 
November 19, and a little more than a fortnight after I 
had to deal with him. My father was with me. When 
the culprit was brought before us we wondered how so 
black a soul could lie under so prepossessing an appear- 
ance. Castaing's face was soft and expressive ; his 
features were strikingly handsome; and his blue eyes 
were void of any ferocious expression. When he saw 
us he shook a little, and appeared afraid that we should 
in any way hurt him, for he said : * Pray do not harm 
me ; you'll kill me ere long ; until then it is of no use 
to make me suffer.' While his hair was being cut he 
exclaimed, alluding to his victims : * Oh, my poor 
friends, what would you say if you saw me in this sad 
position "i I would have given my life to save you, and 
I am charged with your death ! ' These words moved 
me ; I was young and inexperienced, and it seemed to 
me impossible that a man could persist in a heinous 
falsehood in the face of death. I suppose he noticed 
the effect his words produced, for just as Fauconnier, 
our chief assistant, was proceeding to bind his hands, 
he turned to me and said : ' Bind my hands, sir, and do 
not draw the cords too tight' I acquiesced, and he 
thanked me. On the way to the Greve he never ceased 
protesting that he was innocent. The Abbe Montes 
listened to him with anything but a convinced air, and 
he besought him to relieve his conscience and confess 
his guilt. The sight of the scaffold made Castaing 



MY EXECUTIONS. 263 

shudder ; the sinister aspect of the guillotine obviously- 
caused him more terror than the idea of death. His 
fortitude vanished, and our assistants had to carry him 
up to the platform. He fell on his knees, and stretching 
out his hands towards the Abbe Montes, he cried in a 
lamentable voice: 'Forgive me, father; I am guilty. 
Will God forgive me?' The priest blessed him, and 
made him kiss a crucifix. As for me, I was astounded. 
The suddenness of the man's confession almost over- 
came me. Henceforth I was more sceptical when culprits 
assured me of their innocence. 



HI. Brochetti^ Dagron, Papavoine, &c. 

On January 24, 1824, I led a mother and her son to 
the guillotine. A young working man of the name of 
Lecouffe murdered an old woman known by the name 
of Mother Jerome, with the purpose of appropriating her 
money. It was eventually discovered that the idea of 
this horrible deed belonged to the murderer's mother. 
Both were sentenced to death. Their journey from the 
Conciergerie to the Greve was one of the most disgusting 
I ever saw. Lecouffe spoke to his mother with extreme 
violence of language, and the woman answered in the 
same tone. They insulted each other to the last. 

Three executions on April 20 of the same year 
Ochard, Renaud, and Delaporte were highwaymen who 
excelled in the art of waylaying stage-coaches, and killing 
the passengers if they refused to give up their money 



:i64 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

The scene of their exploits was the Forest of Bondy^ 
near Paris. They were executed at four o'clock in the 
afternoon, and died as fearlessly as if they had been in-: 
nocent. 

On May 22 the scaffold was again erected for the 
.execution of an Italian, a native of Rome, named 
Antonio Brochetti. He w^as imprisoned at Bicetre at 
the time of the murder, he having been previously sen- 
tenced to hard labour for life. He killed one of the 
turnkeys, with no other object than putting an end to his 
own life. Life in a prison or in the hulks seemed to 
him a much more severe punishment than death. His 
wish was fulfilled ; he was condemned to death, and 
executed on the Place de Greve five days after, at four 
o'clock in the afternoon. 

He went to the scaffold with eagerness. * I would 
rather die a thousand times than go to the hulks ! ' 
he exclaimed several times. Since Brochetti's execu- 
tion the severity displayed in French penitentiaries 
has increased ; and his example has been followed by 
many. 

After Brochetti I executed a gardener, Nicolas Robert 
Dagron. This man had poisoned his wife and his son. 
He was guillotined on July I. Four o'clock Avas then 
the usual time for executions in Paris, as mid-day was 
the time appointed in the provinces. On the same 
evening we received the visit of a woman who claimed 
Dagron's body ; I complied with her wish. 

No other executions took place in Paris in the course 
of the year 1824; but I had to go to Beauvais on 



MV EXECUTIONS. 265 

August 14 to execute a young murderer of the name of 
Dupuis. 

On February 26, in the following year (1825), I again 
went to Beauvais to put to death two men, Francois 
Morel and Jacques Couvreux,who had murdered a priest 
and his servant. As one may see, executions at Beau- 
vais were frequent. 

My next execution demands more circumstantial de- 
tails than those I have just mentioned. It was on 
March 24, 1825, that I received an order to put to death 
on the following afternoon Louis Auguste Papavoine,. 
cloth merchant, aged 41, who had been sentenced on 
the 26th of the preceding month by the assize court of 
the Seine for having murdered two children in the wood 
of Vincennes. Papavoine was one of the strangest men 
we ever had to deal with. He had, as it were, no con- 
science of his villany. He murdered two children, re- 
spectively aged 5 and 6, in open daylight and in pre- 
sence of their mother, without the slightest motive for 
committing the crime. His case, I think, was one for 
doctors, not for judges. A long and minute investigation 
v/as made, but no connection whatever between the 
family of the victims and Papavoine could be discovered. 
When Papavoine appeared before the jury he at first 
tried to deny his crime, but soon after he made a full 
confession ; he was, however, unable to furnish a reason 
for the murder, but he said that at the time he was 
under the influence of fever and delirium. 

This was a premature excuse for a jury of the period. 
In our days Papavoine could hardly have been sentenced,. 



.266 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

but science was not then as advanced and liberal as itj 
is now. The plea of insanity was, however, urged by 
Papavoine's counsel, M, Paillet. A slight acquaintance 
with Papavoine's family induced this eminent barrister to 
accept the task of defending the child-killer. He dis- 
charged it with an eloquence which should have secured 
a favourable verdict ; but his theory appeared too novel 
to the jury ; and although the same plea was success- 
fully urged on many subsequent occasions, Papavoine 
was declared answerable and sentenced to death. The 
jurors believed in his ruse and hypocrisy, and they 
not only brought in a verdict of guilty, but declared the 
crime to have been committed With, premeditation. It is 
difficult to understand how such premeditation could 
have existed, for it was proved that Papavoine had no 
knowledge of the persons he chanced to meet in the 
wood of Vincennes. 

The culprit was unmoved by his sentence. * I appeal 
to Divine justice,' were his only words. 

Divine justice was, indeed, his only hope, for his ap- 
peal was dismissed, and his family vainly implored royal 
clemency. Papavoine was executed on March 25, at 
twenty-five minutes past four o'clock. He went to death 
in a state of indifference and apathy, seemingly uncon- 
scious of his fearful position. The Abbe Montes was the 
only man who could bespeak his attention. On the 
way he turned twice to me asking whether we had a 
long way to go ; he was anxious to see the end as soon 
as possible. When we reached the scaffold he addressed 
the abbe in the following terms : 



MY EXECUTIONS. 267 

' I do not regret life/ lie said ; ' ill as I was, I found 
no pleasure in it. I do not even think of my poor old 
mother. What smites my conscience is the death of 
those poor little children I was unfortunate enough to 
slay.' 

The Abbe Montes congratulated him on his good 
sentiments. Papavoine knelt at the foot of the scaffold, 
kissed the crucifix, and went up the steps supported by 
two assistants. While the weigh-plank on which he was 
strapped was being lowered, I distinctly heard him say 
the following words : 

* M}^ God, have mercy upon me ! ' 

I touched my father's arm, and we waited until his 
last word to give the signal. 

Opinions are still divided on Papavoine ; some per- 
sist in regarding him as a type of bestial ferocity, while 
the majority agree in thinking that he was a maniac. 
It seems impossible that he could have deliberately 
killed for the mere pleasure of killing. Similar instances 
of the same kind of crime have occurred since, and juries 
have taken a merciful view of the case. On the whole I 
preferred executing Papavoine, to being a member of the 
jury who found him guilty. 



IV. Asselincau and Ulbach. 

After the execution of Papavoine we went to Ver- 
sailles on May 17 following, for the execution of a young 
man of nineteen, Gilbert Prunier, native of Poissy, 
sentenced for murder and robbery. It took place on the 



268 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

old market square at twelve o'clock. On October 28, of] 
the same year, we executed on the same square and at the' 
same hour, one Frangois Mercier, sentenced to death for] 
attempted murder. Our presence was required at Beau- 
vais on November 5 for the execution of an agricultural 
labourer, who had attempted to murder his wife. This 
time the execution came off at half-past two. On 
December 21 we reappeared on the Greve to execute a 
man named Denis Plessis, who had poisoned one of his 
fellow-workmen. 

I must beg the reader not to tire of this sad and dry 
list. I have promised a history of the scaffold, and I 
wish it to be as complete as possible. 

In 1826 there was only one execution ; it is true that 
two men perished at a time. Virgilio Malaguti and 
Gaetano Rata, Italians, were sentenced to death for the 
murder of a money-changer of the Palais Royal. They 
were respectively aged twenty-three and nineteen years. 
We executed them on the 26th. 

We inaugurated the year 1827 by two executions at 
Versailles ; Julien Chevreau, who had murdered on the 
high-road, was beheaded on February 16 ; Therese Des- 
places, aged thirty-six, was sentenced to death for 
poisoning, and executed on March 13. 

On the 2 1st of the following month we went to Pro- 
vins (Seine-et-Marne), for a double execution. An agri- 
cultural labourer and his wife, Cyprien and Adelaide 
Ninonet, were neighbours of a rich widow of the name of 
Corpedanne, who lived with her daughter. Ninonet and 
his wife did not hesitate to murder these two women, in 



MV EXECUTIONS. 269 

the hope of stealing whatever property might be in the 
house. The murderers were not immediately appre- 
hended ; they were not even suspected. Their crime was 
revealed in a way worth relating. One of the victims, 
Madame Corpedanne, was not dead. As she was re- 
covering from a state of insensibility, she was horrified 
on discovering that the charge of her body (for she Avas 
thought to be dead) was given to Ninonet's wife. The 
unfortunate victim saw herself in the hands of her mur- 
deress ; she had the presence of mind to give no signs of 
life, and as soon as a third party arrived, she pointed to 
the woman and her husband as her assassins. 

The Ninonets were executed at twelve o'clock on the 
Place Saint Ayeul, before the church Avhich bears that 
name. The woman moaned piteously, but public indig- 
nation was so intense that she failed to excite any sym- 
pathy. 

I have now to mention one of the executions that 
impressed me most in the coarse of my career. The 
culprit was an unfortunate young man, Jean-Baptiste 
Asselineau by name, native of the department of the 
Nievre, who was executed on May 8, 1827, on the Place 
de Greve. He was barely twenty, and his face was one 
of the most intelligent and sympathetic I ever saw. 
Somehow or other he had got into bad habits, and then 
stepped into crime. From 1825 to 1826 he committed 
a considerable number of forgeries. From forgery to 
murder there is but a step ; Asselineau yielded to evil 
temptation and murdered a man he knew, Jean-Baptiste 
Brouet. He took possession of his victim's property, and 




270 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

it was while attempting to pass off bills belongin 
Brouet that he was apprehended. 

The public was surprised at the precocious perversity 
of a boy whose criminal career had commenced at the age 
of seventeen and reached its climax three years after ; and 
to me this perversity appeared still more wonderful when 
I saw Asselineau for the first time. He was calm and 
resigned when we took him at the Conciergerie. He 
expressed much grief, not on his own account, but be- 
cause of the dishonour he had heaped upon his family. 
On the way to the Greve he showed unlimited repent- 
ance ; and I was profoundly moved by the softness of 
his words and the evident sincerity of his anguish. He 
embraced the Abbe Montes and offered no resistance. 

Ten days after we again erected the guillotine for 
one Alexandre Buisson, aged twenty-nine years, who 
had murdered and robbed. On July i8, at Versailles, 
we executed a native of Rambouillet, named Charles 
Christopher Herv6, sentenced for poisoning his daughter. 
On August 4 we likewise put to death Jean-Baptiste 
Emery, aged thirty-eight years, for attempting to poison 
one of his friends. 

Here is another of the few murderers who are of a 
nature to inspire interest, if not sympathy. Honore 
Frangois Ulbach was the murderer of Aimee Millot, 
better known as the shepherdess of Ivry. This affair was 
so interesting that, like the Lesurques business, it has 
been dramatised and put on the stage. Ulbach was an 
orphan ; he was employed by a wine-merchant of the 
Barriere Fontainebleau, and he was remarkable for his 



MY EXECUTIONS. 271 

zeal and good temper up to the time when he fell in love 
with a young girl called Aimee Millot, who was in the 
service of a lady in the neighbourhood. The girl used 
to take her mistress's goats to graze near the wine-mer- 
chant's shop. The young people got to know each other, 
and a mutual affection sprung up between them. This 
led Ulbach to neglect his duties so much that his master 
at first remonstrated, and then discharged him ; in con- 
sequence of this the girl, on the advice of her mistress, 
told Ulbach that they must part. The unfortunate 
young man tried to change her mind, but perceiving that 
his arguments were fruitlessly urged, he drciV a knife and 
stabbed her five times. 

Ulbach was twenty years of age, and Aimee was 
nineteen. The poor girl died almost immediately. As to 
Ulbach he gave himself up to the police, seeking in ex- 
piation some consolation for a crime which he bitterly 
regretted. 

Ulbach was arraigned before the assize court of the 
Seine ; he did not even take the trouble to defend him- 
self After a trial of a few hours he was sentenced to 
death. He heard the awful sentence without a word of 
regret, and when the president of the court informed him 
that he had a delay of three days to appeal against 
capital punishment, he coldly answered : 
' I have no wish to appeal' 

Such was his intention, but his counsel and the Abb6 
Montes persuaded him not to persist in his purpose. 
His appeal, however, was rejected, and on September 10 
he was given up to us. ' I do not regret life,' he said ; 



272 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

■* I was only a poor orphan, and I have lost the only- 
person I wanted to be my wife.' He seemed to listen 
with respect to the words of the priest ; but his thoughts 
were not altogether divested of the feelings of this earth, 
for he said to the Abbe Montes : ' Yes, father, I am sorry 
I murdered my beloved, since I lost her for ever ; but if I 
find her in heaven, do you think she will forgive me ? ' 

The unfortunate man thought more of the forgive- 
ness of his victim than of the judgment of the Almighty. 
Several witnesses said that Ulbach had had a foreboding 
of his death, for when he began to feel jealous he said 
on several occasions : * I feel I shall die on the scaffold.' 
On another occasion, hearing a public crier who sold ac- 
counts of a recent execution, he observed : ' This is what 
shall soon be done for me,' and, imitating the crier's 
voice, he said : * " Buy for a penny the sentence of 
death and execution of Honore Francois Ulbach." ' 

Ulbach's execution was the last that occurred in 
1827. My services had been required eight times during 
the year. Our office was not a sinecure. 



V. ContrafattOy Robert Saiitt- Clair, and Benoit. 

It was at the beginning of the year 1828 that the 
•exhibition of the Abbe Joseph Contrafatto took place. 
This priest, who was born at Piazza, in Sicily, was sen- 
tenced by the assize court of Paris to hard labour for 
life, and to exhibition during an hour, after being marked 
on the right shoulder with the letters T F. His crime 






MY EXECUTIONS. 273 

can hardly be described : he had committed a criminal 
attempt upon a Httle girl. 

I am bound to say that the Abbe Contrafatto's atti- 
tude was full of Christian humility. The crowd insulted 
and hooted him ; as long as the exhibition lasted he did 
not give the slightest sign of impatience. His counte- 
nance was undoubtedly that of an innocent man. Singu- 
larly enough, he found a devoted friend in the person of 
M. Charles Ledru, son of a friend of Lesurques, who, as 
counsel in the civil suit, had contributed more than any- 
body else to his conviction. M. Ledru gave his close 
attention to the affair, and soon became convinced that 
Contrafatto was innocent. He spared no pains to allay 
the misfortune for which, in his own opinion, he was 
partly responsible. Contrafatto's punishment was gra- 
dually softened, and at length, after remaining in the 
hulks for seventeen years, the abbe recovered his liberty. 
His generous saviour was no small loser in consequence 
of his efforts to obtain Contrafatto's freedom ; he made 
certain declarations which were considered more than 
imprudent by his colleagues, who took upon themselves 
to disbar him. Of course the question whether Contra- 
fatto was guilty or not still remains open, but there is 
every reason to believe in his innocence. 

Five months after Contrafatto's exhibition we re- 
turned to the more cruel necessities of our functions. 
We had to execute a man of the name of Nicolas Roch, 
who had been sentenced to death for murder on the high 
road. On October 28 in the same year I executed two 
women at Versailles ; one had murdered her husband, 
VOL. II. T 



274 . MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

the other her mother. The latter, according to the law 
of the time, was to suffer the amputation of the fist 
before execution. For this complication of capital pun- 
ishment, my father had invented a contrivance by which 
the fist was so compressed that the pain was consider- 
ably diminished. Catherine Darcy (the murderess in 
question), however, uttered fearful shrieks when her fist 
was cut ; her cries only subsided when the knife of the 
guillotine came down upon her neck. 

On June 13, 1829, we returned to the Place de 
Greve, and executed a Belgian named Philippe Frangois 
Debacker, who had murdered his mistress and another 
woman. Thirteen days after we went again to Versailles, 
where we executed Francois Blonde, carrier, for murder. 
On August 5, Pierre Augustin Billau, pork butcher, 
was executed. This man's crime produced great sensa- 
tion in Paris : he attempted to murder his wife with a 
devilish display of cruelty. The market women of La 
Halle hooted him on his way to the Greve. On January 
27, 1830, I executed Jean-Baptiste Guerin, Jean Louis 
Bardon, and Louis Chandelet, condemned for murder and 
theft. Then came Andre Lepauvre, sentenced for the 
murder of his uncle (Feb. 9) ; Eugene Poteau, for at- 
tempted murder (Feb. 26) ; Jean Pierre Martin, for murder- 
in the Bois de Boulogne (July 22). This was the last 
head that fell under the Restoration — the last also that 
fell on the Place de Greve. A revolution swept away 
the old monarchy, and placed on the throne the son of a 
man executed by my grandfather, the Duke d'Orleans, 
better known as Philippe Egalite. One of the effects of 



MV EXECUTIONS, 275 

the revolution was the transfer of the guillotine to the 
Barriere Saint-Jacques. 

No execution took place in Paris throughout the 
year 1 83 1. It was otherwise in other parts of my juris- 
diction. The first of the year occurred at Versailles, 
and the culprit was an accomplice of a man named 
Daumas-Dupin, who had robbed and murdered one M. 
Prudhomme and his wife. Robert Saint-Clair, such 
was the criminal's name, was an escaped convict. He 
had sought shelter in Switzerland, where he was appre- 
hended and handed over to the French authorities. His 
arrest was attended with rather curious circumstances. 
Robert Saint-Clair was dining at a table d'hote opposite 
a distinguished writer who gave a great deal of attention 
to phrenology and physiognomy — sciences which were 
then in fashion. The writer in question was a very 
amiable and amusing caiLScur, and he entertained those 
who were at table by the novelty of his observa- 
tions. Robert Saint-Clair alone was incredulous, and 
little disposed to like a science which enabled the adept 
to discover the secret instincts and leanings of other 
persons from a mere scrutiny of their features. He 
shrugged his shoulders, and even expressed in an uncivil 
way his disgust for the theories of the speaker. The 
latter, on his side, began to observe the dissenter ; he 
seemed struck by some idea suggested by his scrutiny, 
and suddenly addressing Saint-Clair : 

' You seem to doubt the truth of what I say,' said 
he ; ' will you allow me to give you a proof of what I 
said by telling you what your features indicate t ' 



276 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. , ; 

'Very well/ answered Saint-Clair, though not with- 
out hesitation. 

* They show the cunning of the fox and the ferocity 
of the wolf.' 

The remark was anything but flattering. Saint- 
Clair started, and as he had passed himself off as an 
officer it was at first feared that he would challenge the 
bold physiognomist. But nothing of the kind occurred ; 
Saint-Clair did not move, and remained silent until the 
end of the dinner. He was rising with the others when 
a number of gendarmes entered the room and asked the 
travellers to exhibit their passports. Saint-Clair showed 
his, and although it was quite en regie, he was identified, 
arrested on the spot, and shortly after sent back to 
France. I may add that he died with courage. 

It was only on February 3, 1832, after an interrup- 
tion of eighteen months, that the guillotine was again 
required. It was erected, not on the Place de Greve, 
but on the cross road of the Barriere Saint-Jacques. 
The execution took place in the morning at nine o'clock, 
and the culprit was brought straight from Bicetre in a 
covered carriage. The hideous cart had seen its time. 

On July 13, 1832, I had to put to death a very 
young although very great criminal, whose deeds had 
created much sensation : Nicolas Theodore Frederic 
Benoit, son of a highly respected justice of the peace in 
the Ardennes, who suffered in atonement of two murders, 
the second of which had been perpetrated in order to 
conceal the first deed. 

Young Benoit began by murdering his mother, after 



MY EXECUTIONS. 277 

stealing from her bedroom a bag which contained 4,000 
francs. The crime was so horrible that no one thought 
of suspecting the real murderer, who was only nineteen, 
and had received an excellent education. A neighbour 
of M. Benoit's, who had a grudge against him, was sus- 
pected, arrested, and tried. He was acquitted by a bare 
majority, and but just escaped the scaffold. Meanwhile 
Frederic was sent to Nancy, and then to Paris, where he 
began to study law. But the young murderer plunged 
into a life of dissipation and vice, and an unworthy 
fellow of the name of Formage became his boon com- 
panion. Their intimacy was such that Frederic Benoit 
told Formage of his previous crime. Formage was not 
much better than Benoit, for, instead of separating from 
him, he continued on intimate terms with him, until his 
return home. He then wrote to him, asking for money, 
and threatening to reveal his secret if he refused to send 
him the requisite sum. Benoit was quite equal to the 
situation : he returned to Paris, cajoled his companion, 
and one afternoon he murdered him in an hotel at 
Versailles. 

What he regarded as the guarantee of his safety was 
the cause of his death. Benoit had been seen in Paris 
on the eve of the crime, and at Versailles in Formage's 
company ; and although he had managed to escape 
from the hotel after the murder, he was apprehended 
and charged. An investigation led to the discovery of 
a copy of the letter in which Formage threatened to 
inform against him, and thus the cause of his crime 
became known. 



278 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Benoit stoutly denied the overwhelming charges! 
brought against him ; he displayed throughout his 
defence no ordinary ability, but he had to deal with a 
formidable opponent. The inhabitant of Vougiers who 
had been tried by mistake took up the civil prosecution,  
and entrusted M. Chaix d'Est-Ange, the celebrated ' 
barrister, with the task of showing his innocence. M. 
Chaix joined the public prosecutor in his denunciation 
of the prisoner, and Benoit was sentenced to the death 
of parricides ; that is, with bare feet, a shirt as his only 
garment, and a black veil over his head. 

When we reached the prison of Bicetre, where the 
unhappy young man was incarcerated, we heard his 
cries through the walls of the cell when he was informed 
that death was at hand. He appeared in the hall, where 
we were waiting for him, supported by two warders. 
This was the first time I beheld such weakness before 
death. He said nothing while my assistants were 
cutting his hair, but when they undressed him he uttered 
frightful shrieks. The only words of his I could under- 
stand were ' Mercy ! ' ' Pity ! ' ' I am innocent ! ' ' Do not 
kill me ! ' He tried to rise, but could not. The black veil 
was spread over his head, and we started for the guillotine. 
Benoit fainted several times on the way. Whenever 
he recovered he exclaimed in a piteous tone : ' M. Chaix 
d'Est-Ange has caused my death. My poor mother, 
you know I am innocent ! ' The priest who supported 
him did not spare his encouragements, but Benoit still 
persisted in saying he was innocent. It was only when 
he saw the guillotine that he knelt and confessed his 



MY EXECUTIONS. 279 

guilt. This confession I distinctly heard, although it 
was only intended for the ears of the priest, and I was 
relieved when it came out, for I had followed the trial, 
and in my humble judgment Benoit had been convicted 
on proofs which appeared to me anything but conclusive. 

Benoit was carried up to the platform, for he could 
not be induced to walk. He was insensible while my 
assistants strapped him to the weigh-plank. 

On retiring, my father (who usually accompanied me 
on such occasions) said to me that, since the execution 
of Madame Dubarry, he had never seen an instance of 
such weakness on the scaffold. 

' Remark,' he added, ^ the powerlessness of capital 
punishment ; we have just executed a man who had the 
greatest fear of death. Well, the man was not twenty- 
one, and yet he had already committed two murders. 
Fear of capital punishment did not deter him.' 

I was quite of his opinion. My father shrugged his 
shoulders, and continued : 'Fear of death is a physical 
sentiment which is linked with the instinct of conser- 
vation. When a man is ill, or in great peril, then he 
fears death, but never is he deterred by the prospect of 
distant death; and if the man be a ruffian the temptation 
of crime will get the better of whatever lurking appre- 
hension he may have.' 



VI. Lacenaire, Fieschi, and Alibaitd. 

Few executions took place in 1833, and 1834 was 
one of happy inaction. It was only on July ii, 1835, 



28o MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

that we received an order to put to death one Jean 
Laborde, an agricultural labourer sentenced for murder ; 
he was executed at Melun. On October 24 a soldier 
named Roch Belard, who had murdered one of his 
friends, passed through our hands ; and two celebrated 
criminals, Lacenaire and Avril, were executed at the 
beginning of 1836. 

Lacenaire especially deserved the name of * lion of 
crime ' which I ventured to give to Castaing. Never 
before did a murderer engross public attention to such a 
degree ; never before was a criminal beheld with more 
curiosity — I will even say with more enthusiasm. The 
object of Lacenaire and his accomplice was theft, and 
the means murder. To murder and rob the commis- 
sionnaire of a bank in charge of bank-notes, was the 
chimera which he pursued with incredible pertinacity. 
He was not successful; and several fruitless attempts 
betrayed Lacenaire and his accomplices into the hands 
of the police. 

Lacenaire displayed the most extraordinary cynicism 
and audacity. Instead of confessing that he was led to 
commit his crimes by his evil passions, he endeavoured 
to explain them by his principles ; and he expressed 
doctrines which were alike antagonistic with morality 
and good sense. Gifted with eminent faculties, he 
clothed his shameless sophisms in brilliant language ; 
and he was listened to with indulgence; his prose, his 
verses, were read with avidity, and he became the 
hero of the day. This, I think, was a mistake. Lace- 
naire made a pedestal of the scaffold, and died with 



MY EXECUTIONS, 281 

the consoling consciousness that he was a celebrated 
man. 

Lacenaire and Avril, his accomplice — or rather one 
of his accomplices — was sentenced to death on November 
1 5. Both appealed against the sentence ; but the former 
declared that he only did so ^ in order to have time to write 
his memoirs.' Lacenaire's expectations were frustrated ; 
he could not conclude his scandalous biography ; but a 
well-known writer undertook the task after Lacenaire's 
death, and the work was published. 

The reader, if he likes, can find in the ' Causes 
Celebres,' by M. Fouquier, an account of Lacenaire's last 
acts. There is no need, therefore, for me to give further 
details than those of my personal contact with this famous 
murderer. When we arrived at Bicetre, he came to us 
gracefully, and smoked a cigar while his hair was being 
cut. Avril showed no less coolness. The morning was 
raw and cold ; he could not help shivering. ' It's awfully 
cold,' he said ; ' they'll think I am afraid.' He asked for 
a glass of brandy, which was handed to him by a warder. 
* Thanks, old fellow,' said Avril, drinking it off. He 
then bade farewell to the turnkeys, while Lacenaire was 
bowing ceremoniously. The journey to the guillotine 
was a long one, for the roads were muddy, and the car- 
riage advanced with some difficulty. Abbe Montes made 
a final effort to touch the heart of Lacenaire, but the 
man's scepticism was too much for him. It was nearly 
half-past eight o'clock when we arrived. The culprits 
alighted first, and Ave followed them. Avril, whose 
execution was to take place first, embraced the priest^ 



282 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS, 

who escorted him to the foot of the scaffold. He turnec 
to Lacenaire, and cried in a strong voice : 

' Farewell, Lacenaire ; farewell, my mate ! ' ^ 
A smile appeared on the lips of the other culprit. 
The thump of the knife did not even make him start. 
In his turn he firmly went up the steps of the guillotine, 
and looked intently at the crowd. We thought he was 
about to speak ; but he held his tongue, and stretched 
out of his own accord on the plank, which was still 
dripping with Avril's blood. The knife came down, and 
Lacenaire's head fell into the basket. Some newspapers 
of the period pretended that there was an interval of 
twenty seconds, and that the knife stopped before it 
reached Lacenaire's neck. This was altogether untrue. 
This detail was probably invented for the sake of effect. 
No extraordinary event occurred while Lacenaire was 
being guillotined. I tried to conttadict the report of the 
above invention, but no paper would print my letter. 
All I can say is that the famous criminal was remarkably 
cool and resolute, and that he suffered no more than 
Avril. My account, I know, differs from the official 
one, but I venture to assert that mine is correct. 

Four weeks later the guillotine was again at work ; 
the criminals were Fieschi, Morey, and Pepin, who had 
•attempted to murder King Louis Philippe on July 28. 
Fieschi's attempt is well known : he invented an infernal 
machine, which he discharged as the King and his family 
were passing. None of the royal personages were 
wounded, but forty persons fell under Fieschi's bullets ; 





/nu^ 




MV EXECUTIONS. 283 

among others a marshal of France, several generals, and 
other men of distinction. 

Fieschi was arrested. He was found to be an ad- 
venturer of a low kind ; he had been a spy, and had 
become a political murderer out of interest He 
tendered his services to a few fanatics, who were foolish 
enough to accept them. Fieschi began by naming 
them. These accomplices were no higher persons than 
a saddler of the Rue Saint-Victor, and a grocer of the 
Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Fieschi's cowardice forfeited 
the lives of these two men, whose participation in his 
crime was not so great as the chief criminal made it out 
to be. Morey, the saddler, and Pepin, the grocer, were 
sentenced to death, while another accomplice was con- 
demned to imprisonment for twenty years. 

Morey was a withered old man, but he had a proud 
heart, and he died with much dignity. Pepin was not 
forty years of age, and had four young children ; he also 
was brave to the last. As to . Fieschi, he fainted away 
while my assistants were strapping him. 

On July 1 1 of the same year, we had to execute 
•another regicide. Alibaud — such was his name — was 
far superior to Fieschi. He was twenty-six years of 
age, had been in the army, and was known as an honest 
and honourable man. , He waited for the King's car- 
riage at the corner of the Carrousal, and fired at the 
prince. Louis Philippe again escaped unhurt. Alibaud 
was led to the scaffold with a black veil over his head. 
He advanced to the side of the scaffold, and said : * I 



284 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

die for liberty and the extinction of infamous monarchy/ 
He died without fear or bravado. 



VII. Darmes, Beliard, Salmon ^ Potdmann, Pont, &c. 

There was no execution in Paris during the year 

1839. The scaffold was only erected on February 29, 

1840, for a common and not particularly interesting- 
criminal. Only two more instances of capital punish- 
ment occurred in 1840, and our first execution in 1841 
was on the person of one Marius Darmes, sentenced for 
firing a gun at King Louis Philippe. Darmes was a 
man of the same category as Alibaud, and he showed 
indomitable energy during the whole of his trial before 
the House of Peers. This was the third attempt on the 
King's life. 

No executions in 1842.^ 

On November 6, 1843, ^t Versailles, execution of 
Clovis Joseph Beliard, condemned to death for murder. 
On November 30 of the same year, execution of Henri 
Salmon for murdering a man named Sechepine in the 
wood of Vincennes. For some time past I had merely 
appeared on the scaffold, and I left the irksome duties 
of fetching the culprits, &c., to Piot, my first assistant. 
To my great surprise Piot came to me saying that Henri 
Salmon wished me to superintend the toilet in person. 
I of course gratified this wish. When I asked Salmon 
why he wished me to attend him rather than any other, 

^ A few unimportant executions are omitted in the present version of 
Sanson's Memoirs. 



MV EXECUTIONS. 285 

lie said that he knew my family, and hoped that I would 
spare him as much as I could. I was touched, and did 
him all the good turns I could on the way to the guillotine. 
The successor of Salmon on the guillotine was the 
notorious Poulmann, alias Durand, alias Legrand, whose 
hideous celebrity was almost equal to Lacenaire's. 
Poulmann was very intelligent ; and if he did make a 
principle of murder and robbery, he at least possessed 
greater physical powers than Lacenaire. He was sen- 
tenced to death on January 27, 1844, for the murder of 
an old man who kept a wine-shop near Nangis. When 
the hour of punishment came he showed the most 
extraordinary courage. He was a confirmed materialist, 
and firmly believed in nihilism. Poulmann was par- 
ticularly proud of his personal strength ; and as it was 
feared that he would try and make a show of it before 
dying, I was requested to double the number of my 
assistants. These apprehensions were groundless. When 
my assistants advanced to bind his hands, Poulmann 
looked up angrily and asked whether it was the custom ; 
' because if it is not,' he added, * Pll send you all tum- 
bling over in less than a minute.' He, however, submitted. 
He would not allow the Abbe Montes to accompany 
him. When we reached the scaffold Poulmann looked 
at it without a shudder. ' Is that all ? ' said he, shrug- 
ging his shoulders. On reaching the platform Poulmann 
turned towards the assistants and exclaimed : ' I say, 
you fellows, won't you put a franc piece in my pocket 
for the gravedigger } It is bitterly cold, and the poor 
fellow must drink my health.' 



286 MEMOIRS OF THE SANSONS. 

Such were his last words. 

On October 28, 1844, at Versailles, execution of 
Antoine Pont, sentenced to death for having poisoned 
his wife and then murdered his mistress in the forest of 
Senart. The atrocity of this double crime absorbed 
public attention, and the scaffold was surrounded by an 
immense crowd who hooted the culprit. 

And now I have done. My notes end here. My 
father died in 1841, and from the time of his death I 
became an inactive spectator of executions. I had 
executed over a hundred persons, and I felt it was 
enough for me. I remained de nomine executioner ; 
Piot, my first assistant, was also my factotum, and I 
merely attended executions as a matter of form. In 
fact I retained my functions, but I had not the courage 
to discharge them. Long before my dismissal in 1847 
I was expecting and hoping that the Government would 
fulfil my dearest wish and enable me to retire without 
breaking the promise I had made to my father of never 
withdrawing of my own accord. My dismissal did come 
at last, and while some fifty eager individuals were com- 
peting for the office of executioner I greeted it as a 
deliverance. 



APPENDIX. 



PUNISHMENTS NOT FOLLOWED BY DEATH. 

DEGRADA TION, 

The first category of punishments in force in France comprised 
Degradation^ the Pillory^ Amende honorable, Flagellation, and 
Mutilation. The first three of these penalties were rather- 
moral than physical. 

By degradation, the culprit was ignominiously stripped of the 
functions, privileges, and titles wherewith he was invested. 

Officers of justice were publicly degraded. The execution 
of a sentence of death was always to be preceded by degrada- 
tion. Thus, when Marshal de Biron was on the scaffold, the 
Chancellor of France deprived him of the insignia of the Order 
ofthe Holy Ghost. 

The degradation of a nobleman was always attended with 
much solemnity. Thirty knights of proved courage met in 
council, and summoned to their presence the nobleman charged 
with felony. A king- or a herald-at-arms pronounced the 
accusation of treason, or broken faith, and if the charge was 
not well met, degradation took place in the following manner. 
Two scaffolds were erected in public : on one the judges were 
assembled, surrounded by heralds and men-at-arms; on the 
other stood the culprit, fully armed, with his shield stuck in a 
spike before him. He was then stripped of all his weapons^ 



:288 APPENDIX. 

beginning with the hehnet ; his shield was broken in three pieces ; 
the king-at-arms poured a basin of hot water on his head, and 
priests sang the service of the dead during this impressive cere- 
mony. The judges, clad in mourning, then went to church, 
whither the culprit was borne on a litter. After a De Fyo- 
fundis he was given up to the royal judge to be dealt with by 
High Justice. On some occasions he was allowed to out- 
live his infamy, as in the case of Captain Franget, a Gascon 
gentleman, who had treacherously surrendered Fontarobia to 
the Spaniards. He was degraded at Lyons in 1523, in the 
manner I have described, and afterwards set free. 

Subsequently degradation was abandoned, because the 
sentence in itself was understood to imply the stigma. It was 
resumed in 1791 under the name of civil degradation. The 
-clause was thus worded : ' The culprit shall be led to the 
public place, where sits the tribunal that passed sentence upon 
him. The clerk of the court shall address him in these words : 
" Your country has found you guilty of an infamous act ; the 
law and the court strip you of your title of French citizen.*' ' 

Civil degradation is still in force, but it is not coupled with 
ceremony, and merely consists in the deprivation of certain 
rights mentioned in Article 34 of the Penal Code. However, 
according to martial law, no dishonourable sentence can be 
carried out without effective degradation. 



PILLORY AND C ARC AN. 

Pillory succeeded carcan, which was adopted in 17 19, and 
only disappeared a few years ago. The pillory was a kind of 
post or pillar to which, in token of infamy, criminals were 
■chained. It was generally placed in a well-known spot. In 
Paris it was situated near the Halles. It consisted in an 
octagonal tower with a ground floor, and only one landing. 
The culprit was shown there during three consecutive market- 



APPENDIX. 289 

days. On each day he was taken round the pillory every half- 
hour, so that he should be seen on all sides. This species of 
exhibition differed according to towns ; thus, at Orleans, where 
for the first time the pillory was used, it consisted in a wooden 
cage, six feet high, and only two feet and a half broad, in which 
the culprit was thrust, and obliged to remain in a standing 
posture. The cage revolved on a pivot, and the people had 
the right to turn it so as to see the prisoner on all sides, to hoot 
him, and to throw mud in his face. 

The Car can was rather an adjunct to the pillory than a 
new punishment. It was a circle, or iron collar, which the 
executioner riveted around the convict's neck. The convict 
was led forth on foot, both hands attached behind the execu- 
tioner's cart, or tied behind his back. At the place designated 
for the punishment was a post, to which was linked a long 
chain, terminated by an iron collar six inches thick, which had 
a hinge. The neck of the convict was enclosed in this collar, 
which was then locked with a padlock. A placard indi- 
cating the crime of the culprit was sometimes stuck on his 
breast. 

Crimes punishable by the pillory were bankruptcy, forgery, 
bigamy, fraud, cheating at cards, robbery of fruit, sale of pro- 
hibited books, and blasphemy. Under Francis I. and Henry 
II. this last crime was met by six hours of carcan. The appli- 
cation of carcan changed by dint of time, and when it disap- 
peared from the French penal code it consisted in being 
attached in public by the neck to an iron collar for the space 
of an hour. 



AMENDE HONORABLE, ETC. 

In the long list of punishments inflicted in former days. 
Amende honorable held the last place. Perhaps this revolting 
punishment should have had a higher place, but it was intended 
to touch the mind, not the body. It was frequently a pre- 

VOL. II. U 



290 APPENDIX. 

liminary step to a more severe punishment. The sole act of 
parading a prisoner in a cart through the streets was, however, 
a punishment inflicted upon petty thieves. In some cases it 
was also inflicted upon noblemen. 

Among other moral inflictions should be mentioned the act, 
, resorted to under the reign of St. Louis, of breaking a knight's 
spurs on a dunghill. In the middle ages a husband who 
suffered his wife to beat him was iriade to ride about the streets 
pn a donkey with his head towards the tail. Cutting the table- 
cloth before whoever had committed an act of cowardice was 
another usage of the same kind. This was done to William of 
Hainaut, at the King of France's own table, because he had 
not avenged the murder of his grand-uncle. 



- FLAGELLATION. 

Flagellation has been one of the most cruel and humiliating 
punishments. It was abolished in 1789, but continued in force 
in the navy, until the Provisional Government of 1848 finally 
suppressed it. Corporal punishment, however, is still in vigour 
in the hulks. 



MUTILATIONS. 

There is scarcely a single part of the body that has not been 
subjected to a separate and special torture : the eyes, mouth, 
tongue, ears, teeth, arms, hands, feet, and heart have been so 
many sources of suffering by fire and iron. Blindness, resorted 
to under the first two races of French kings, was inflicted by 
princes upon high personages whose attacks they feared, but 
whose lives they dared not take. Blindness was applied to 
Bernard, King of Italy, grandson of Charlemagne ; and the 
Parliament of Senlis, in 873, ordered that the rebellious son of 
Charles the Bald should be deprived of his sight. 



APPENDIX. 291 

A red-hot iron passed before the eyes until, to use Join- 
ville's expression, they were cooked ; a steel point which was 
plunged in the centre of the organ ; the plucking out from the 
socket — such were the instruments and means resorted to by 
justice and revenge, which in barbarous ages were often con- 
founded. 

The tongue has in all times been practised upon by the law. 
Louis IX., generally considered one of our wisest kings, ordered 
that blasphemers should be marked on the brow, that their lips 
should be burnt, and their tongue pierced with a red-hot iron. 
For this punishment he invented a round-shaped iron, which the 
executioner applied to the lips of the culprit, after heating it. 
Louis XIL, the ' father of the people,' enacted that whoever 
uttered eight blasj^hemies should have his tongue torn out, and 
Louis XIV. re-established the law. The zeal of Francis I. for 
the triumph of the Catholic religion suggested new tortures, 
which were inflicted on the Protestants. Among the Hugue- 
nots burnt alive on January 21, 1535, in the presence of the 
King, was a man named Antoine Poile, whose tongue was 
pierced and attached to his cheek with an iron pin. The 
infliction usually took place before a church. 

The amputation of the ear was a common punishment in 
the middle ages. It was priictised on the serf who displeased 
his master. Two laws, one enacted in 1498, the other in 1534, 
alluded to this particular mutilation, which is also particularised 
as a punishment in the records of Anjou, Loudunais, La 
Marche, &c. Sauval gives the following account of it : ' The 
amputation of one ear was inflicted on dishonest servants, and 
cutpurses ; a second offence cost them the other ear ; death 
was the penalty of the third offence. When the first larceny 
was considerable it was the left ear which was cropped.' 

The teeth also were within reach of the executioner. It 
was the wont to pull out the teeth of Jews to make them give 
up their money ; and Louis XL, after the death of Jacques 

u 2 



292 APPENDIX. 

d'Armagnac, Count de Nemours, ordered that his children should 
be taken to the Bastille, and that their teeth should be extracted. 

The amputation of the fist is the form of mutilation which 
has the longest resisted the progress of civilisation. The 
Code of 1 791, art 4, enacted that * whoever shall be con- 
demned to death for murder or arson, shall be taken to the 
place of execution clad in a red shirt. A parricide shall have 
his head and face covered with a black cloth, which shall only 
be taken away before execution.' But the Code of 1810 
returned to the old legislation, and decreed that the fist of a 
parricide should be amputated. It was only in 1832 that this 
useless cruelty was finally suppressed. 

The amputation of the feet was a wholly mediaeval punish- 
ment. The last instance of this cruel infliction was under the 
reign of St. Louis. 

Another punishment which may be classed in the category 
of mutilations, was that which consisted in branding convicts 
with a red-hot iron. In older times, the culprit was branded 
with the fleiir-de-lys. Afterwards, the letter V, impressed on 
the shoulder of thieves, was substituted, or the letters GAL 
{galores) when they were sent to the hulks. Soon after, the 
letters T F {travaiix forces) took the place of previous marks. 
This infliction was abolished by the law of April 28, 1832. 



PUNISHMENTS FOLLOWED BY DEATH. 

Capital punishment has prevailed in all legislation in 
France, as almost everywhere else, and during a long period it 
was coupled with atrocious sufferings. And murder, or con- 
spiracy against the State, were not the only crimes punished 
with death ; among other crimes in which it was inflicted were 
pecuniary exactions committed by officers of the law, fraudulent 



APPENDIX, 293 

bankruptcy, forgery committed by State officials, peculation, 
false evidence, housebreaking and waylaying, smuggling, false 
marks on jewellery, the pettiest acts of theft, sacrilegious pro- 
fanation, duelling, &c., &c. I may as well give a summary of 
the too numerous punishments entailing death which were in 
practice from ancient time to our days. 



THE CROSS. 

The Cross was the most ancient and cruel form of capital 
punishment. In France it was rarely resorted to. In 11 27 
Louis the Bulky ordered Bertholde, the murderer of Charles 
the Righteous, to be crucified. Crucifixion was also inflicted 
at different times on Jews and heretics. 



DECAPITATION, 

Decapitation is also a punishment as old as the world. It 
was particularly common under Richelieu's rule. The Cardinal 
struck hard at the nobility, and caused a greater number of 
noble heads to fall under the sword of the law than had been 
sacrificed since the first origin of the French monarchy. The 
advantage of this capital execution reposed in the executioner's 
dexterity, which, unfortunately, could only be acquired by 
practice. History and our family records contain frightful 
examples of awkwardness in decapitation by sword or axe. 
It is well known that De Thou's head only fell at the eleventh 
blow, and a similar event happened at the execution of Madame 
Tiquet. 



HANGING. 

Hanging was in force as well as decapitation. The 
latter was the exclusive privilege of the nobility, while the first 



294 APPENDIX. 

was inflicted upon culprits of lower station. In certain cases, 
however, the rope was awarded to noblemen also. The guillo- 
tine replaced the gibbet under the Revolution. 



THE STAKE. 

The Stake was another torture followed by death inflicted 
in France as late as the seventeenth century. 



QUAKTERIiVG. 

Quartering was another horrible form of death in former 
days. Damiens, who attempted the life of Louis XV. in 1757, 
was the last who perished by it. Quartering consisted in tying 
the convict by the arms and legs to four horses, which were 
then driven in diflerent directions until the execution was con- 
summated. Quartering was almost exclusively inflicted on 
regicides. Horrible in itself, it was prefaced by other tortures 
of ingenious cruelty. 

THE WHEEL. 

The Wheel, or rack, was as barbarous as any other form of 
capital punishment. It consisted in tying the culprit on a 
wheel, breaking his limbs, and leaving him on the wheel until 
he expired. But it often happened that the judges ordered, by 
a reteiitum, that he should be strangled before his limbs were 
broken. This punishment was most frequent in France, and 
many innocent men suffered by it, among others the unfor- 
tunate Galas. The wheel was abohshed in 1789. 

DROWNING. 

At the origin of the Monarchy, sorcerers and witches were 
sentenced to be drow7ied. Philippe Auguste extended this 



APPENDIX. 



295 



punishment to untitled persons who should swear. Charles VI. 
applied it to all those guilty of sedition. Louis XI. seems also 
to have sanctioned drowning in certain cases, but the punish- 
ment disappeared after his death. 



FLAYING ALIVE. 

Flaying alive was often resorted to in France. The 
chamberlain of the Count de Rouci was flayed alive in 1366 
for betraying Laon into the hands of the EngHsh ; and the 
Constable of Armagnac, when he was made prisoner, was sub- 
jected to the same death by his enemies. 



LAPIDATION AND EMPALEMENT. 

The only instance of Lapidation and Efnpalement in 
France occurred under Fredegonde. 



ESTRAPADE. 

Estrapade, invented under Francis L, consisted in letting 
the culprit fall from a height in such a manner as to break his 
limbs. 



BOILING. 

Another kind of punishment, applied to utterers of counter- 
feit coin, was Boilings either in oil or water. This was aban- 
doned in the seventeenth century, but it was regularly abolished 
only in 1791. 

LA GALE, 

La Cale, of which a mild form is retained in the French 
navy, consisted in hoisting the culprit to a considerable height, 



296 ' APPENDIX, 

and then letting him fall. In cale seche he fell on deck ; in cale 
huftiide he fell in the water. 

Before alluding to the last and only form of capital punish- 
ment, it is worth noticing that the middle ages provided a 
supreme protection against death, even at the foot of the scaf- 
fold. The culprit might, if he succeeded in slipping through 
the hands of his keepers, seek refuge in a church, and his 
person was sacred so long as he abided there. The Church 
was very jealous of this privilege of holy sanctuary. The 
culprit could be still more efficiently preserved if a woman 
consented to marry him. Numerous examples of this supreme 
salvation are quoted by mediaeval historians. 



THE GUILLOTINE. 

The French Revolution, which made all citizens equal 
before the law, gave them the same privilege before death. 
On January 21, 1790, the following decree was published : 
* In all cases of capital sentence, the punishment shall affect a 
single form, whatever may be the nature of the crime: the 
criminal shall be decapitated, and the execution shall take 
place by means of a special apparatus.' This machine, which 
was to bear the name, not of its inventor, but of Doctor 
Guillotin, who had improved it, was the guillotine. This 
zealous citizen, impelled by a humane sentiment which merely 
aimed at abridging decapitation, and depriving it of much of its 
physical suffering, had only perfected a machine known in Italy 
since 1507 under the name oi mannaia. When Doctor Guillo- 
tin proposed this form of death to the Constituent Assembly, 
he was much laughed at ; but his suggestion was eventually 
adopted. The machine was constructed in the following 
manner, and it has been but slightly altered since : On a 
scaffold from seven to eight feet high two parallel bars are 
made fast at one end ; their top part is united by a strong cross- 



APPENDIX. 297 

bar. To this cross-bar is added a thick iron ring, in which is 
passed a rope which fixes and retains a ram. This is per- 
pendicularly armed with a sharp and broad blade, which gradu- 
ally becomes broader on all its surface, so that instead of 
striking perpendicularly, it strikes sideways, so that there is not 
an inch of the blade that does not serve. The ram weighs 
from sixty to eighty pounds, and its weight is doubled when it 
begins to slide down. It is enclosed in the groove of the bars. 
A spring makes it fast to the left bar ; a band of iron descends 
along the outside of this same bar, and the handle is locked to 
a ring with a padlock, so that no accident is possible, and the 
weight only falls when the executioner interferes. To a weigh- 
plank strong straps are fastened, by which the criminal is 
attached under the armpits and over the legs, so that the body 
cannot move. As soon as the weigh-plank goes down, the 
head, being between the bars, is supported by a rounded cross- 
bar, the executioner's assistants lower another rounded cross- 
bar, the head being thus grooved in a perfect circle, which 
prevents it from moving in any way. This precaution is 
indispensable, in regard to the terrible inconveniences of fear. 
The executioner then touches the spring. The whole affair is 
done so quickly that only the thump of the blade when it 
slides down informs the spectators that the culprit is no longer 
of the living. The head falls into a basket full of bran, and the 
body is pushed into another wicker basket lined with very thick 
leather. 

Although the guillotine was the common instrument of 
death, according to the law, hanging was frequently resorted to 
during the Revolution. ' A la lanterne ! ' was a well-known 
cry. It signified hanging from a gibbet to which was attached 
a lantern. Foulon, the Councillor of State, was the first who 
suffered in this way.^ But the lantern was ratlier the instru- 
ment of summary justice. 

' The Abbe INTaury was once pursued hy a mob, who cried * A la 
lanterne ! ' 'Do you think you can see the clearer for putting me in the 



298 APPENDIX. 



JUDICIAL ORDEALS AND TORTURES. 

In their search for the truth our ancestors often trusted to 
hazard, and soon persuaded themselves that its decrees came 
from the Divinity. The duel or judicial comhat was instituted 
at the time of the invasion of the barbarians. The law of 
Burgundy decreed the duel when the parties would not abide 
by the primitive test of oath. FeudaUsm extended judicial 
combat ; women, children, and priests were bound to bring 
forth a champion to sustain their cause by arms. The ordeal 
which at first only consisted in a struggle, was aftenvards 
attended with solemn and specified formalities. It was pre- 
ceded by a challenge, uttered before the tribunal ; the person 
who asked for a judicial duel, threw down a glove as a gage of 
battle. The judges who ordered the duel were bound to see it 
out. The champions, before coming to blows, swore on the 
cross and missal not to have recourse to magic in the just 
quarrel they were about to fight for. The weapons differed 
according to classes : serfs were armed with a stick or a knife, 
and had a shield of leather called cana'as ; squires used only 
sword and shield. The conquered was regarded as condemned 
by judgment of Heaven, and an ignominious death awaited him 
if he did not perish by the blows of his opponent. In certain 
cases men, as well as women and children, could defer a quarrel 
to champions. In 591, Goutray ordered one of his chamber- 
lains and one of his gamekeepers, who charged each other with 
having killed a buffalo, to fight in the lists. The chamberlain's 
champion and the gamekeeper killed each other. The cham- 
berlain, duly convicted of the crime by the death of his 
champion, was chained to a post and stoned. In certain cases 
a combat between a man and an animal was permitted. The 

place of a lantern ? ' said he, coolly. A general burst of laughter followed 
this sally, which saved his life. It was by the hand of this prelate that I 
was confirmed. — S. 



APPENDIX. 



299 



judicial duel was authorised in civil and criminal actions. St. 
Louis attempted to substitute for it proof by witnesses ; and 
from the time of Philippe Auguste as late as the seventeenth 
century, the duel could only take place with the permission of 
the King. 

One of the most celebrated instances of these judicial 
combats was that of Jarnac and La Chataigneraie in 1547, 
under the reign of Henry IL, when Jarnac cut his antagonist's 
ham by a blow which remained famous. 

The so-called ordeals by the elements were four in number : 

1. The ordeal of the C7'0ss, in use in France at the beginning 
of the ninth century, consisted in holding out one's arms cross- 
shape as long as possible during divine service. He who 
retained this position the longest had the better of his opponent. 
In his will Charlemagne ordered that the judgment of the cross 
should be resorted to in all quarrels that might arise out of the 
division of his states between his children. 

2. Ordeal by fire was one of the most solemn. When it 
applied to writings the books were thrown into the fire, and the 
orthodoxy or the falseness of their contents were judged by the 
manner in which the works suffered the ordeal. When the ordeal 
was applied to men, two piles, of which the flames touched each 
other, were erected side by side. The accused, with the Host in 
his hand, rapidly traversed the flames, and if he succeeded in 
accomplishing the perilous journey, he was declared innocent. 
Among the most noteworthy examples of this kind of judgment, 
which also consisted in burning the feet of the accused, or in 
exposing them bare before an ardent brazier, I may quote 
Pierre Barthelemy, who pretended, at the time of the first 
crusade, that he had found the spike of the holy lance; charged 
with falsehood, he crossed through the flames with the Host in 
his hands, and accomplished the test successfully — but it is said 
that he died shortly after. 

3. Ordeal by cold or boiling water. — The first of these tests 
was generally applied to people of low condition. The prisoner 



300 APPENDIX. 

heard mass, after which the priest made him kiss the cross and 
the gospel, and finally sprinkled him with holy water. He was 
then undressed, his right hand was tied to his left foot, and he 
was thrown into the water. If he went to the bottom, as 
was natural, he was reputed innocent ; if, on the other hand, 
he remained at the surface, it was said that the water would not 
take him, and he was considered guilty. Ordeal hy boiling water 
consisted in placing a cauldron full of water on a large fire ; 
when the water was in a state of ebullition it was taken away 
from the flames, a rope was tied above it to which was sus- 
pended a ring, or any other object, which was then lowered 
into the water at different depths. At the first ordeal, the 
accused had only to plunge his hand to catch hold of the ring ; 
at the second ordeal he plunged the arm up to the elbow; and 
at the third all the arm. When the ordeal was accomplished, 
the sufferer's arm was inserted in a bag on which the judge im- 
printed his seal, which was broken three days after, and then, 
if any mark of burning was still apparent, the accused was 
declared guilty ; in the other case he was absolved. 

4. Ordeal hy warm^ hot, and red-hot iron. — This ordeal con- 
:sistecl in taking with the hand a heated iron, or in walking with 
bare feet on burning iron. In the middle ages noblemen and 
priests had recourse to it. The accused, after fasting for three 
<iays, attended mass, and was led to the part of the church 
where the ordeal was to take place; there he took the iron 
which had been more or less heated, according to the gravity of 
the crime ; he raised it two or three times, or carried, it more or 
less far, according to the sentence. As in the preceding test, 
his hand was thrust into a bag, and was sealed for three days, 
and if it was without scar the accused was declared innocent. 
Ordeal by red-hot iron consisted in putting on a red-hot 
iron gauntlet, or in walking on iron bars, of which the usual 
number was nine, but which could be extended to twelve. 

Ordeals founded on the belief that God always proved the 
innocence of the accused by a miracle were abandoned in the 



APPENDIX. 301 

thirteenth century, when St. Louis declared that combat was 
not a proof of right, and substituted evidential proof for judicial 
tests. The traces of this institution, however, existed until 
the sixteenth century. 

There can be no doubt that torture was the result of the 
ancient superstition which had given birth to judicial ordeals. 
Torture comprised certain graduated torments inflicted upon a. 
prisoner either to compel him to confess his crime, or to ob- 
tain the names of his accomplices. While he was subjected to 
these sufferings, a judge, standing close to the torturer or ques- 
tionnaire^ called upon the accused to say the truth, and wrote 
down his declarations, whence the name of question which was 
given to torture. QjLiestion was of two sorts, either definite or 
j^relimina7'y. These two categories were subdivided into ques- 
tion ordinaire and extraordinaire. Through the first it was 
sought to exact from the accused the confession of his guilt ; 
through the second it was endeavoured to discover the names 
of the accomplices who had helped him in the perpetration of 
his crime. Torment carried to a certain limit constituted qiies- 
tion ordinaire ; it was doubled in qnestion extraordi?iai?'e, which, 
as a rule, was only inflicted upon culprits previously sentenced 
to death. 

Torturers had multiplied the instruments of punishment. 
Further it may be seen that each provincial parliament had its 
particular infliction, from which it could not depart. I shall 
begin by dwelling on the more general species of tortures, in 
which water, wood, fire, and iron were always used. 

Torture by water consisted in seating the culprit on a stone 
stool, after his sentence had been read to him. His wrists were 
attached behind his back to two iron rings distant from each 
other. All the cords then entwined round his limbs and body 
were then pulled as much as possible, and v/hen the body of 
the sufferer could not be stretched any more, a trestle was 
placed under his back. The questionnaire held a horn in one 
hand, and with the other he poured water in, and obliged the 



302 APPENDIX. 

criminal to swallow four pints in qiiesiioji ordinaire, and eight 
pints in question extraordinaire. 

The boot was an instrument consisting of four planks, 
between which the sufferer's leg was pressed. The planks were 
pierced with holes, through which ropes were passed, so as to 
press the planks together. The executioner then drove wedges 
between the planks with a mallet, thus compressing and even 
breaking the limbs of the culprit. Ordinary torture included 
four wedges ; eight wedges were used in gitestion extraordinaire. 

The Parliament of Paris applied only two kinds of torture, 
by water and boot. In Brittany, the sufferer was tied to an iron 
chair, while his legs were brought by degrees in contact with 
the fire. At Rouen, the thumb and another finger, or the leg, 
were compressed ; at Besangon, the horse, which consisted in 
a piece of wood garnished with spikes, on which the culprit 
was placed astride, was generally used. At Autun torture was 
inflicted by pouring boiling oil on the feet. Estrapade pre- 
vailed at Orleans. 

France was the country in which torture prevailed the 
longest. A declaration, dated October 24, 1780, abolished 
preparatory question, and another decree (March i, 1788) did 
away with torture altogether. 



THE EXECUTIONER. 



In the primitive times of French society, the man on whom 
devolved the sad mission of putting criminals to death, or 
exacting confession by torture, took the name of Executioner 
of High Justice, because high judges and also royal judges 
alone had the right to pass sentence of death. In 1323 execu- 
tioners were also designated as commissaires spiculateurs. It 
was only under Louis XI. that the epithet of Bourrean was 
applied to the executioner. Before the Revohition he was 
considered as a servant of the State, and held letters patent 



APPENDIX. 303 

signed by the King. Custom had estabHshed a degree of 
hierarchy in the profession. When the King had chosen a new 
executioner, the letters of nomination were thrown on the table 
by the wax-chafers of the high chancellor's office, and the 
■executioner was to pick them up. The custom was abolished 
in 1645, and the title of executioner was given from hand to 
hand to the holder. The headsman was sworn before the 
court of his place of residence, and was nominated after 
ample information had been obtained concerning his habits, 
conduct, and piety. As a rule he was not allowed to reside in 
town, unless he took up his residence in the house of pillory, 
which was assigned to him as his quarters. 

In certain localities he wore a costume consisting in a 
jacket bearing the arms of the town, with a ladder embroidered 
on the breast, and a gibbet on the back. The office of execu- 
tioner was not in France, as in Spain, strictly hereditary ; but 
for many reasons not difficult to imagine, it will be readily 
understood that the functioa seldom passed out of a family 
when they had once got into it. This respect of direct and 
legitimate succession went so far as to admit of a kind of 
minority in the monopoly of the scaffold, and this led to a 
decision of which the sacrilegious horror was not probably 
realised by the magistrates who were responsible for it. I said 
before that in 1726, after the death of one of my ancestors, 
Charles Sanson, his son Charles Jean-Baptiste Sanson was 
called upon to take his place at the age of seven. An assistant 
•executioner named Prudhomme was entrusted with his func- 
tions, in regard to his youth, but it was required that he should 
sanction every execution by standing beside his assistant. 

When the executioner had only daughters, his son-in- 
law was expected to take his place after death. Thus it was 
that the dismal office came down to me through six generations. 

If the office of executioner, during the middle ages and 
under the Monarchy, was deprived of honour, it was in return 
invested with many pecuniary privileges. The executioner's 



304 APPENDIX. 

chief right was that of havee (from avoi?', to have). This right 
consisted in taking as much of the corn sold in the market as 
he could take with his hands. This privilege had been granted 
to the executioner to help him in his personal wants, and to 
save him the trouble of buying provisions, which he could not 
easily procure otherwise, many people declining to receive 
money which came from such hands as his. The executioner 
could employ assistants to collect his tax ; and the number of 
men he was led to engage for the purpose all but absorbed all 
his profits. In consequence of this, his right in certain towns 
was exchanged for a yearly allowance of money. In a letter 
addressed to the authorities by Tardiveau, the local execu- 
tioner, the writer complains that he is obliged to employ a 
regular army of assistants in collecting havee. So as to dis- 
tinguish those who had paid him from his other debtors, the 
executioner or his assistants marked them on the shoulder or 
elbow with white chalk. This brought on riots and seditions \ 
and, moreover, as the right of havee, or rather the manner of 
exercising it, caused rising discontent, it was at last replaced 
by an increase of salary. 

Many other privileges were attached to the office besides 
that which I have mentioned. By an order of the Chateht, 
dated 1530, the executioner of Paris had a right of taxation on 
fruit, grapes, nuts, hay, eggs, and wool ; also a toll on the Petit- 
Pont, a tax on barges, a sum for each patient sufi'ering from 
leprosy, a sum on brooms, coals, oysters, fish, cakes of 
Epiphany, water-cress sellers, and on stray pigs. When one of 
his servants captured a pig, he took it to the Hotel-Dieu, and 
either the head or a sum of money was given in return. The 
executioner had also a right to a part of the apparel of the 
culprits who suffered by his hands ; at first only clothes below 
the waist were given him, but eventually he obtained the whole 
apparel. 

In certain cities the executioner levied a tax on women of 
loose life. The monks of Saint- Martin gave him five loaves 



APPENDIX. 305 

and five bottles of wine for every execution that took place on 
their lands ; those of Saint Genevieve paid him five sols yearly 
in lieu of right of havee ; and on St Vincent Day the abbot of 
Saint Germain-des-Pres gave him a pig's head, and assigned to 
him a prominent place in the procession of the abbey. 

The executioner also received a sum of money for each 
execution. 

In* 1 72 1 all the rights appertaining to the office were 
abolished, and the emoluments of the executioner were fixed at 
16,000 livres; and up to 1793 the execution of capital sen- 
tences was entrusted to the three following functionaries : 

1. The executioner. 

2. The questionnaire. 

3. The carpe?iter. 

All punishments followed by death concerned the execu- 
tioner. Besides his salary of 16,000 livres, he received special 
fees for executions outside the walls of Paris. All his expenses 
were defrayed. His assistants were of two sorts : r. The sons 
of provincial executioners, unpaid, but fed and boarded. 2. 
The servants, who also acted in the capacity of private 
domestics to the executioner. 

The questionnaire was sometimes the son or relative of the 
executioner. He inflicted question ordinaire and extraordifiaire, 
and also preliminary torture. 

If one is to judge by the salary (from 40,000 to 50,000 
francs), the office of carpejiter was a profitable one. The car- 
penter's business was to construct, repair, and keep in order 
scaffolds and instruments of punishment. 

In 1793 the National Convention completely altered the 
position of public executioners. By a decree issued on June 
13, 1793, it was decided that an executioner should be attached 
to each department of the Republic. The salary of execu- 
tioners was to be paid by the State. In towns of which the 
population did not ex,ceed 50,000 inhabitants^ the salary was 
fixed at 2,400 livres ; in those numbering from 50,000 to 
VOL. II. » X 



3o6 APPENDIX. 

100,000 inhabitants, at 4,000 livres ; and, lastly, the emoluments 
of the executioner of Paris were diminished from 16,000 to 
10,000 livres. His assistants were paid on the same scale. 
During the Reign of Terror, however, a special fee of 8,000 
francs was added to his salary. It was not too much for what 
he had to do then. 

The last reform in the position of executioners was enacted 
in 1849, when the salary of the executioner of Paris was 
lowered to 5,000 francs; the executioner of Lyons received 
4,000 francs ; those of Bordeaux, Rouen, and Toulouse, 3,000 
francs, and the gang of less important headsmen, each 2,400 
francs. It will be seen that we are far from the time when M. 
de Paris collected 50,000 francs only for his right of havk. It 
is well to remark that no more letters patent are held by execu- 
tioners ; that the salary has become a kind of petty stipend ; 
and the conclusion indicated by this state of things is that when 
occupations of the kind I have described gradually lose in im- 
portance, the time is not distant when they shall disappear 
altogether. 



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